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Where Has All the Ministry Money Gone
New Ways to See It, New Places to Look

When it comes to fund-raising in a down economy, giving the extra $20 at a car wash or bake sale might seem like a lot more to fork over than it has in the past. So what do you do to raise funds for your youth group when skinnier wallets seem to be held tighter? Go back to the basics of who you are and what you're doing.

What You're Doing
Remember: it's not fund-raising, it's harnessing interest. The term fund-raising has a bad rap. It makes people cranky and fearful. That's too bad, because adults love giving money to students. They also enjoy supporting tangible projects. So when you combine young people and purposeful evens, you have a ripe field for the harvest. The key is in how you do it.

We recently sponsored a two-week trip for our entire high school group combining a week of missions work with a week at a national youth conference. Rather than soliciting donations or having the students write letters to their relatives, we compiled a list of students who were available to do part-time work. One of the parents who does an excellent job with administration became our dispatcher, matching jobs from the congregation with students by geographical location. During the three months we ran this program, thousands of dollars poured in, directly to the students, from hundreds of church members. Many of our people looked for any possible excuse to hire students and give them money. People love supporting students who are trying to live for God, regardless of the economy. One woman hired a boy to move some boards from her car to the garage. She paid him the equivalent of sixty dollars an hour and sustained him with donuts, cookies, and milk. That beats writing letters if you ask me.

Where You're At
Believe it or not, there are resources are out there for your youth group—go find them. There may be valuable resources hidden right under your nose. No kidding. It's amazing what you can discover by poking around a bit in your own community (not just affluent communities, either). Resources abound when student development is the goal.

For example:
  • More than once the large automobile companies in Detroit have loaned us fifteen-passenger vans for an entire week free of charge. We've even taken some of them over the border into Mexico.
  • One of our local food chains disburses checks to nonprofit groups based on a percentage of grocery tabs.
  • Foundations in our area regularly donate significant chunks of money for work projects.
  • Businesses that need temporary help can use youth groups for one-day projects.
  • Work projects are plentiful within every community, especially in the spring.
  • Fluctuations within the economy can provide occasional opportunities. Right now you'll find a glut of used coach buses on the market. Buses that would have set you back $60,000 five years ago can be purchased for less than $10,000 right now, and some may even be available as donations.
The point of all this? Resources are available for the taking. I happen to like digging up special deals, but not everyone does. If you do, great—I guarantee you'll find something worth knowing about. But if not...

Who You Are: The Church
Let's say you'd rather dig ditches than scrounge around looking for treasure. I'll bet there's someone in your church who would be thrilled to play such a part in your youth ministry. Ask around and pray for God's direction. He gifts all kinds of people with priceless abilities, and when the end result means blessing and encouraging the lives of your youth, there's no telling what they might come up with.

Stand in the back of your sanctuary next Sunday and look at all the people. Not as a crowd, but as uniquely gifted individuals. Those people have what your group needs. It's true in several ways—and I'm not talking about fundraising.

Here's a recent example. One year we planned a retreat and later discovered we couldn't run some of the entertainment options we'd counted on. What to do?

Set a bunch of guys loose on the problem, that's what.

One man know a few things about salvage prices. Another was an expert at sniffing out automotive bargains. Someone else could hatch outrageous ideas at a moment's notice. By the time we ran the retreat, the purchasing expert had acquired a fleet of functional automobiles, the salvage expert had lined up their disposal for more money than we'd invested, and the idea man gave us more to do with those things than we had time for.

The result: an unforgettable weekend retreat that generated a profit. So remember—there's gold hidden in those pews (or chairs), and not just in people's wallets.

Back to the Students

Remember as you seek out resources—whether it's funding, personal investment, or time—adults need to experience the grace of empowering young people to find their way and gain strength in the faith. Keeping your students in front of the people who invest in them will communicate the vulnerability of adolescent development. Adults will recognize this and support it, which is exactly as it should be. The adults will then invest themselves into your students—giving them so much more than money.


Don Pearson's groups have been stranded, evicted, rescued by helicopters, surrounded by sharks, held at gunpoint... and enjoyed God's blessing while growing from six students in the eighties to over six hundred today. He spends his time overseeing the thriving youth ministry of Blythefield Hills Baptist Church, near Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article is adapted from his recent book YOUthwork: 99 Practical Ideas for Youthworkers, Parents, and Volunteers, co-authored with Paul Santhouse.


Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.



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