by Jason Sansbury

When I first started out in youth ministry, I never quite grasped that our summer activities would ALWAYS need significant financial support beyond what our youth could pay and what our youth budget could sustain. So this inevitably created a scenario where we would have several car washes and bake sales late in the spring and trust that God would give us what we needed. And while we never had to cancel an event because of the lack of funds, it got close a couple times. So as you stare down another year of events, retreats, choir tours, and mission trips, you need to start this fall on your plan for fundraising for the coming year, especially for the summer! Here’s why:

  1. You need a realistic plan. In the work I do with various churches, as a consultant, a coach, and a retreat speaker, it is astonishing to me how many people don’t have a solid financial assessment of the coming year and the needs they have both for the budget and for the fundraising need. Spend the time to make sure that you have a grasp of all the costs of events, retreats, etc.  Then look at the amount of those costs that will come from the funds the church has budgeted for youth ministry, followed by the funds that students and their families can realistically pay, and then you have an idea of what your total fundraising goal should be as you look at the gap in those numbers.

  2. You can let your needs be known. When people in your congregation see and hear of a solid plan in place and that the funds already given are being managed well, you may be surprised at the unexpected gifts that will come to you. One year, when it became known that I was raising funds to take my small church volunteer team to the National Youth Workers Convention, a sweet woman in our congregation sold off the timber from a piece of property she owned and donated the full amount plus extra so we could eat nicer than the McDonald’s trips we had planned. If that need hadn’t been communicated, then she would have never known and been willing to make that gift.

  3. You can raise what you need for who needs it. In my current church, I have everything from students who need to raise the full amount of any event in order to participate and students whose families can afford to pay their full way for any and everything we do. In order to balance those needs, our fundraising plan helps parents know what opportunities are there and how to plan so they can raise what would help their family the most. Some of our fundraising is done in a “you play, we pay” manner, meaning kids who work get credit for amount of time worked and some of them are for the good of the youth ministry cause as a whole.

  4. You don’t waste people’s time. Fundraising can easily be bogged down in car washes that log dozens of hours of work and net you $200. When you know what your real numbers are for your needs fundraising-wise, you can plan events and efforts that make the maximum amount of money in the minimum amount of time. But to really have those goals and shoot for them, you need to know what the need is and figure out how to best meet that need.

  5. You are giving your church a realistic assessment of what the costs of their youth ministry is. It’s too easy to let people add up what is in the youth minister’s salary (if any!) and the youth budget (if any!) and think that is the cost of the current youth ministry your church has. The truth is that there are a lot more funds involved and your church should know it. One youthworker friend took the time to make a realistic assessment of the needs of his church’s youth ministry and after doing so, the Administrative Board of his church raised the youth budget to the full amount of their need and asked him to focus no time on fundraising and more on his relational ministry and program ministry. It is probably unrealistic to think that will happen for all of us, but if we can show a compelling plan, demonstrating the real need and how we plan to raise those funds, it may make it a bit easier when you do need to ask for more financial support of your growing ministry!

You are going to have a ton of great things happen in this coming year. And while great ministry can be done with little to no cost, most of us are doing events that do have some financial ramifications. So in order to save yourself weeks of praying, pleading, and washing cars in the late spring in the hopes that the finances appear for your summer, take the time to put together a plan now, gather the volunteer and parental support you need for the plan, and make sure you raise everything that you need now!