For most of my adult life I have been a attending children’s ministry conferences. Some have accused me of being a conference junkie. That’s okay with me, I’m sure there are worst things that I have also been called. The thing about conferences that I love is that it’s one of the best places on earth for folks to ask questions and receive answers. If you know me at all you know I love questions! At 99.9% of the conferences I’ve attended somewhere during the event there are 3 questions I’m always asked. Number one is how do you recruit volunteers, the other is how do you know when it’s time to leave? The other is “ We are a church of this size, we have this many kids, what should our budget be?” Sound familiar? Maybe you have asked me one of these. I will let my book VOLUNTEERS THAT STICK answer the first one, my resource STAY OR GO can answer the second and the third question I’ll try to answer In this article.
The simple answer is that there is no secret formula. You see budgets mean different things to different folks. Let’s get on the same page and turn to the word, Luke 14:28 tells us this “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? You see planing must always go before action. A budget without a plan is just a pile of money. The truth is budgets should not be based on church size alone. Budgets are not law just because something made the budget doesn’t mean you can spend it. Budgets are more of a spending guide if the money is there. But not just a random guide or guess but an estimate of the costs of the plan of action based on what you want to see God do in your ministry this coming year.
This is a process that I start in July of each year. I begin to ask the Lord what He wants for the children and families of the church I serve. I start with prayer and as key leaders in my ministry to do the same then it’s time to dream in God. I also brain storm with my team what they sense God wants to do next year. Brain storming is a wonderful tool but at the end of the day you have to hear from God for where He wants your ministry. As the leader of our Next Generation Ministries I write out what I believe we should be aiming for as a team. I share this with my team and give them the areas I feel are “thus seethe the Lord” (these are not up for negotiation) the rest of my ideals I ask them to come up with a plan to pull this off. Then I ask them to come up with a plan to pull this off. Here is the formula I teach them to use for this.
It all begins with the end result. At the end of next year what do we believe Jesus wants to do in the hearts and lives of the children and families next year. To effectively do this we have to start with the end in mind and look at trends and percentages presently as well as historically that are a realistic goal for growth. Numerically what are you planning for? Spiritually what are you believing for? How will you achieve these? This is your plan it has to go before anything else. Another important question is how will you evaluate and examine where you are throughout the year?
What will a win look like? If you don’t know this how will you recognize it? Something I learned years ago that changed my life is that If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do what you have never done before. Same action brings same results. In other words if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time.
I divide my plan of action into four areas of focus. Everything I plan has to come under one of these four. First is Spiritual Development and Program. Second is Student Care and Follow Up. (Why should Jesus give you more kids if you can’t take care of the ones you already have?) Third is Student Leadership Development. The best way I know how to disciple is train children and students to be leaders and last but not least is Adult Leadership Development. Every thing I do or plan has to fit here. How much we do in each area has to do with where we are as a ministry. You have to identify what the needs of your ministry are in each of these areas. At different times you’ll be at different places in each of these areas. To get the process started I go by my churches annual cycle. If your church doesn’t have an annual cycle this is something you should sit down and develop as a team here’s how our cycle runs. We start with New Years series at the first of the year and plan to get our community talking about what’s happening at our church. Next is Super Bowl. It’s become a national holiday so we use it to rally leverage.
The next event on the calendar is Valentines and we talk about Love. After that comes Spring Break I use this time for outreach and build community and do service. A biggie with us is Easter. We do a community service at a local college and relocate our church. I use several special guest in almost every age group. Next is Graduation/year end stuff. Then comes Worker Recruitment and Worker Appreciation now comes Summer. We use the summer to prepare for the fall administratively we also do a VBS alternative plus Camps special Activities and Service projects. Our next big season is the fall with our Promotion Weekend and the Beginning of school. Football is huge here in the south. Then comes Halloween and Christmas. At Christmas we do a big Children’s Choir program plus some special guest events. We also do a big Gift Wrap Outreach to our city. After we come up with our plans around these events using the four areas of focus I sit down with my key leaders and deconflict the plan with other departments within our Next Generation Ministries. What are you looking for?
I watch for too many activities that hit families out of the same pay periods. I also
watch for too many people raising funds at the same time. It’s the same pond and you can’t drain it dry. I also look for ways to piggy-back on what others are doing to maximize the emphasis within the community and the congregation. I think it’s also important to look at you plans in the light of your family. It’s amazing to me when a family church allows for family time I wish more did! I use the early fall to price my plan.
What activities are funded? What activities and programs will the church be reimbursed? What’s raised? What will be given away? Remember our scripture above count the cost. This is where you submit your plan and the price of your plan to the budget folks to get it approved. What if we can’t afford this plan? This is why I do this in early fall so I have time to go back to the drawing board and make the necessary cuts for the big picture. I start by adjusting my goals or what I want to achieve that year. Once the goals are adjusted so is the plan. This action is what adjusts the costs of the plan.
Now I have goals. I have a plan to meet the goals and I’ve been assigned the necessary budget to make that plan reality all before Christmas. Now it’s time to enjoy the holidays and finishing the old plan and budget strong. How you end one thing sets the stage for how you’ll start the next one.
Once the new year begins work your plan and add feet to it. Just because you have your plan and your budget doesn’t mean you are on easy street. It is your job to use your faith and trust God for his blessings and provision for your plan. As you go through your church cycle and walk out your plan make sure you evaluate and make adjustments as you walk it out! Cll a time out to make adjustments have a halftime. If your plan is not working or if the funds are not there due to circumstances beyond your control make the necessary adjustment and be the leader God has called you to be. Don’t develop a us verse them attitude. Realize God is in control what’s best for the entire organization is also what’s best for your department as well as for you individual. Before you know it it will be time to repeat the process!