Tag Archives: Budget

Budget or Die

Budget or Die

Seriously, learn to budget or your ministry is toast

It’s that time of the year when many of us in ministry take a break from the things we care about and turn our attention to submitting a budget for the upcoming year. My friend Collie recently published a post ( that got me thinking through how over-my-head I felt in my first few years of ministry as I tried to create a system and process for budgeting. Now, as my friends and staff are well aware, budgeting season is one of my favorite parts of the year.  Crazy, right?

(If you read that as though you only have to budget once and then you’re good-to-go… leave me a comment in the section below and we’ll have a conversation this week where I break the news to you that budgeting is a year-round and life-long process)

The game-changer for me was two-fold – First, I developed a way to project what a program or event was going to cost without feeling like I was simply guessing and, second, I learned to use the budgeting process as a chance to cast and realign vision for our ministry.

Developing Initial Projections

I’ve found it helpful, in developing ministry budgets, to figure out a formula for an initial cost projection for a program or event. Having a way to initially project what an event or program is going to cost helped me feel as though I wasn’t simply guessing at the cost of ministry.

As a starting point in my first 2 years of ministry, I used these two quick formulas for events for 3 yr olds thru 5th graders (nursery, parenting and middle school events need different numbers… but I’ll assume that the bulk of kids’ ministers out there budget primarily for the 3’s-5th grade demographic)…

In our context, ongoing events and regular programs cost about $1 per child per ministry hour.
Large events and events that only happen once or twice a year cost about $2 per child per ministry hour.

Starting there would give me a base for my budget… it’s then up to me to go through my list of needs and wants to see if I can actually pull it off.

I’ll quickly put those numbers to the test with 2 examples:

Let’s say you have 70 kids in an ongoing program like Sunday School. And, as it once was in my case, let’s now assume that kids in your program will be with you on a Sunday for an hour and a half. That’s $1 x 70 kids x 1.5 hours… or, $105 per Sunday, giving you an annual budget of $5460 for Sunday School.

A large event, like a Halloween Festival or a VBS, will use the other formula. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you run a VBS or Day Camp for 100 kids and that the program lasts from 9am-1pm (4 hours). That’s $2 x 100 x 4 for a total of $800 per day, giving you a budget of $4,000 for a 5 day program.

Having a formula you can work from, even if it’s different than mine, gives you a way to go back to your pastor or your board to explain why a one-time event like VBS will cost nearly as much as a year of Sunday School. And, as your numbers grow, you have something to point back to to make a case for the need for an increased budget line.

Budgeting as an outflow of Vision

When I came on staff at our church, children’s ministry was getting 0.8% of the church budget.  That’s to say, for every $1 that was donated to the church, less than a penny was going to the programs and ministries dedicated to children under the age of 12.  That was a staggering number.

Now, I’ll be honest, there was a tectonic shift that occurred at our church that began to address that figure – we hired a senior pastor who had an appreciation for where the church had been and a vision for where the church needed to go.  He allowed us to begin looking at our budget numbers as expressions of what we thought mattered most.  In the first few years, a large event that our church hosted every year was canceled and I took that money and invested it in books and resources that we could hand to parents – believing that a more lasting impact would happen in the life of a family if parents were equipped to have spiritual conversations with their kids… rather than a family simply attending one more large event our church was hosting.

A few weeks ago, The Orange Tour came to our church and Reggie Joiner sat down with our Senior Pastor to chat about life, ministry and the things that matter most.  It’s a 15 minute conversation, but has some stand out moments.

If you begin watching at about 8 minutes, you’ll hear a throw away line just before the 9 minute mark about the year that our children’s ministry budget doubled.  That was the year that our Senior Pastor told the church that children’s ministry mattered.  We used our budget as an expression of the vision of the church.  The numbers were more than numbers – they were a physical manifestation of what we knew to be true – ministry to kids matters and an excellent ministry is going to cost more money than what we had been spending.


You need to know how to budget.

Whether you’re in ministry or not, money doesn’t just happen – so you need to spend with an end in mind.  As you look over your budget, household or ministry, what does it say about the things you value?  Is there a way that you’re coming up with numbers, or are they simply hopeful shots in the dark?  Can your spouse or your senior pastor articulate why you spend what you spend on the things you spend it on?

Budgeting season doesn’t have to be stressful – but it does have to matter.


Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Kidmin


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Orange Recap: Training Events for Small Group Leaders

How About Orange

Here we are, months later, and I’m finally able to recap some of my take-aways from The Orange Conference I attended in early April.
It’s partly because I wanted to put some of what I learned into practice before I shared some of the great things I heard while in Atlanta.
It’s also partly because I lost my notes and my wife found them a couple days ago.

Training Events for Small Group Leaders was a pre conference break out hosted by Autumn and Chad Ward.
Here’s what the conference said about this session:

Does the back door to your family ministry seem much larger than the front door? Do you spend more time recruiting than you do investing in your volunteers? Join two church leaders who, in very practical ways, are learning how to make that back door less appealing. This breakout will focus on vision casting, skill training, and strategic celebrations as tools you can use to enable your volunteers to stick it out for the long run.

For a great recap of the notes handed out for the session, check out Chad Swanzy’s GREAT summary here.

My big takeaway from this discussion was the idea of making a BIG DEAL out of training events for our volunteer teams.
Too many times we gather our people together to say thank you and we forget to make them feel loved and equipped.

If your team is excited to serve, there’s a better chance that they’re investing everything they’ve got into the ministry they’ve been called to.

So, how do you get them so excited that they’re inviting their friends to serve alongside them?
I’ll offer three thoughts:

  • Let them share stories
    Gina McClain has some encouraging words about the importance of hearing stories from the kids we serve.  How powerful would it be if your leaders not only heard these stories but shared them with the rest of the team.  If you team knows it’s making a difference, there’s a bigger chance your team members’ excitement will be contagious.
  • Remind them of the vision
    Remember yesterday’s post about casting vision?  No…? Well, go read it here.  Use team parties and award celebrations as a time to congratulate ministry role models and remind your team WHY they do what they do!  Team members who are equipped to cast vision for others are walking and breathing commercials for your ministry.
  • Show them how much they’re worth
    First of all, how much is a team member worth to you?
    $10? $20?  A cheesy $1.99 pen?
    Your leaders should walk away from training events knowing that you value them.  If they feel loved and equipped because you gave them a great dinner in an awesome setting and brought in a speaker to train and equip them, they’ll tell others about the ministry they’re involved in.  If all they get is a notepad and a stale cookie… well, they probably won’t be inviting their friends to serve alongside them anytime soon.

If you could add a fourth bullet point… what would it be?
Share your thoughts below!


Posted by on June 17, 2009 in Kidmin, Orange


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Playground Ribbon Cutting Ceremony @Glenkirk!

Playground Ribbon Cutting Party @Glenkirk 09 on Vimeo.

I’m thankful that this day has finally come.
Sleep should come a little easier now.

Thanks to all who supported this tremendously awesome project.

It couldn’t have happened w/out you!


Posted by on June 1, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Playground


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Busy week… more posts to come

toddler playground

The toddler area of our new playground finished construction this week.  Next week should see the arrival of our larger play structure.

Providing oversight for a project like this is something they don’t teach you in school (or, at least, not at mine)… so, if you want to see how our project happened – make sure you check out the 3 part series detailing what we’ve learned about playground projects.

Next week:

Stay tuned!


Posted by on May 15, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles


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So, You Want A New Playground (3 of 3): Making it Happen without Killing Yourself

Our church’s new playground project will be completed within the next month.
This last weekend, we completed phase 2 of the project.

We’re learning a ton about the playground business and what it takes to re-imagine a play space and I thought I’d share my insights.

The final post in this series will offer a couple suggestions to keep in mind before you launch into a project of this scope and magnitude.
Adding a space to your church that is designed with your kids in mind can be one of the most exciting things you’ll be a part of in CM.  Just don’t kill yourself, your ministry, or your family in the process.
Three ways you can get through a project like this with your sanity in tact can be found below:

God’s Timing, Not Yours.
If you try to tackle a project too fast, you may find yourself spinning your wheels until you’ve collapsed.
Take a deep breath when you start this process and remember to pray.  It’s not unheard of for a project like this to take over a year.  Pace yourself.
God may move in ways during this process that will grow your faith exponentially.  Keep a journal so that you can remember how faithful God is.
Matt McKee, a fellow CM, has some thoughts on the importance of remembering.  Check them out here.

Value before Vision.
Your church won’t rally behind the vision you have for your area unless they value the things you value.
As I wrote here, great ideas don’t sell themselves.  Your church has to first understand the importance and value of reaching young families in your community.  Creating a space for them to feel comfortable on campus won’t matter if your church doesn’t see that as something that will add value to the church.
Phase 1 of any large project is a process of rallying people behind your vision and raising the means to accomplish it.  Don’t try to do those things at the same time or in reverse order.  You’ll burn yourself out.

Make it Safe. Make it Last.
Save yourself time and energy and plan for this space to last 10-15 years.
This means you’ll need to get the parents of kids in your nursery just as involved in this project as the parents of your pre-teens.
Your space also needs to look and feel safe (for parent buy-in)… while also looking adventurous and exciting (for kid buy-in).  Do not sacrifice one for the other.
By making your space lasting, you’ll save yourself the trouble of redesigning the space in 3-5 years and repeating the process all over again (fundraising the second time will be harder than the first).
By making your space safe, you’ll show parents that the safety of their kids matters inside and outside of your programmed time.

Our hope is that this series has been helpful for you and your church as you think creatively about the space you provide for children in your programs.
As I said before adding a space to your church that is designed with your kids in mind can be one of the most exciting things you’ll be a part of in CM.
(Sam Luce, Children’s Pastor at Mt. Zion Ministries Church in Utica, NY, talks about his experience revamping their space in a series of posts from early 2008.)

So, what kind of project is in your church’s near future?
Have you recently undergone a similar project and have thoughts to share?

The comments section awaits your input!

Proposed Toddler Area

Proposed 5-12 Area


Posted by on April 27, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Playground


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So, you want a new playground… (1 of 3): The Law of 3’s

Our church’s new playground project will be completed within the next month.
Today, we completed phase 2 of the project.

We’re learning a ton about the playground business and what it takes to re-imagine a play space and I thought I’d share my insights here.

Today, we’ll be looking at budgeting and planning tips for your playground renovation.

Some quick facts about our situation:

Our current playground is over 15 years old.
In California, that means that many safety precautions now in place were never considered when our current structures were installed.
In church culture, that means that the playground was built in the early 90’s… a time when Children and Family ministries did not hold the weight they do today in budgeting conversations.
The amount a church is willing to spend today is dramatically higher than the amount a church would have spent on a children’s play area 20 years ago.

Our space is limited.
When our church was built, children were intentionally hidden from view and the area available to us is limited because of it.
Overall, the space our project will fill could be split into approx a 35′ x15′ area and a 60′ x 30′ area.

Disneyland is half an hour away.
Being located in Los Angeles, you cannot even begin to compete with the options that families have for entertainment.
Instead, we focused on creating a safe place where families could spend time together and children could expend large amounts of energy.
For us, this meant we valued active space and circuit play over excitement value.

With those things in mind, we assembled a planning team to create a proposal for our church’s Session (board of Elders).

Here are the Top 3 things we wish we could have known at this stage of the project:

The Law of 3’s

  1. Think of an amount you’d like to spend on the project.
    Triple that number… the first quotes you receive will come close to that amount.
    We originally wanted to replace our current playground for around $45k.
    Our first bid came in just under $150k.
  2. Triple every number you find in a playground equipment catalog.
    Keep in mind that your overall cost will be about 1/3 Play Equipment and 2/3 Demo, Install, Surfacing and Labor.
    There’s plenty of room to cut $ from a project like this and I’ll share tips on how to save money later in this series.
  3. Get, at minimum, 3 bids on the project.
    Different companies can offer different savings.  Write all of these savings options down… you’ll want these later.
    Be up front about who you’re getting bids from.  Companies know who their competitors are and will work harder for you if they know the face of their competition.

Being realistic in the early stages of your project will save you immeasurable amounts of time and stress.
Keeping the Law of 3’s in mind, you’ll go into Budgeting and Planning (Phase 1) for your project more prepared than the majority of people in your shoes… which will set you up nicely for what we’ll be talking about tomorrow.

Tomorrow (part 2 of 3): $aving Money while Serving Jesus

Proposed Toddler Area

Proposed 5-12 Area


Posted by on April 25, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles, Playground


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