Children's Ministry Budget: 8 Tips for Doing More with Less

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If you are like me, you don’t have a huge budget at your church for Children’s Ministry.  In fact, you may not have a budget at all.  Maybe the budget that you do have comes from your own debit card.   Maybe you’re living in an impoverished area, where money is going towards basic necessities like food, water, and medicine.  Maybe your budget has always been healthy, but with the current state of the economy, you don’t see that continuing.  Whatever the case may be, here are some practical tips on how to run a Children’s Ministry more cost effectively.
As always, it is important to keep in mind that a healthy budget does not always create a healthy program.  Herbert Hoover, the 31stPresident of the United States, once said that, “Our children are our most valuable resource.”  The wealth of a church should lie in its investment in its children, but investments don’t always have dollar signs.  Investments may look like time spent together on the swings, reading the Bible together, a letter of encouragement, a high five every week, or raking leaves for an elderly church member.  Simple discipleship is always a rich investment.
Included here are ideas on how to cut costs in your ministries, without sacrificing quality programming.  By no means is this an exhaustive list, so please feel free to add your comments or suggestions to the bottom of the page.  They would be much appreciated.

8 Tips for Doing More with Less

1.   Get creative: Lesson plans often come with a long list of materials needed to teach a Bible lesson, make a craft, or play a game.  Many of these materials can be costly.  Instead of running to the store to pick up a specific item, be flexible.  Change or modify the activities based on what you do have available.  Often you can do the same objective for a fraction of the price.
2.  Take inventory: What does your church already have?  Go through supply closets and make a thorough list of materials available.  Update this list on a regular basis and distribute it to all of the teachers in your ministry.  Many times we spend money on items that are collecting dust in a cabinet because we simply forget what we have on hand.
3.  Reuse and Recycle: Keep curriculum organized in a filing cabinet for future years.  Our Treasured Tikes Program (a Children’s Church for 2-4 year olds) repeats the same lessons every 3 years, since the children will have graduated from the program in that time span.  As far as supplies are concerned, save all of those cereal boxes, jars, water bottles (and other common materials) so that you’ll always have art materials on hand.
4.  Make your own: Need Play-Dough for a lesson?  Make a batch.  Need costumes for a Children’s Christmas play?  Save coupons for craft supply stores, purchase fabric, and utilize the seamstresses in your church.  Even better, accept donations of used clothes and cut and mend the existing pieces as needed.  Need instruments for a worship song?  Place rice in a water bottle and you’ve got a maraca.  Need tiles for a mosaic art project?  Use dried beans, peas, and lentils to get the same effect.
5.  Host a Give-A-Thon: Go through lesson plans to see what materials will be needed for the next year.  Or, brainstorm commonly used supplies.  Make a list of these items and distribute it to the church congregation.  Identify a drop-off area in a central location in the church.  Have members either purchase or rummage through their own homes for donations.  Organize all donations in a neat and efficient manner.   Find a creative way to thank the congregation for their generosity!
6.  Make connections: Utilize social networking to generate supplies, curriculum, feedback, and ideas.  Whether it is a blog, a Facebook account, Twitter, or a simple email, don’t be afraid to ask people for donations or resources.  Often times, people are excited to donate items to a worthy cause (and de-clutter their homes at the same time!)  We receive many of our recycled supplies from the local art teacher, curriculum from a large area church, and snacks (that would have been thrown out) from a Panera bread employee.
7.  Go thrifty: Always be on the lookout for good deals at local consignment stores, garage/yard sales, Goodwill, and Ebay.  Sometimes you’ll find great toys for the nursery, quality furniture pieces, Christian books, or fun themed accents for parties or special events.  Once items are cleaned, they can be as good as new!  Also, if you don’t have the budget to buy a children’s book needed for a lesson, check your local library to see if they carry it.  If the public library search comes up empty, search for it in a large area church’s library.
8.  Nothing beats free: Utilize free internet sites like this one, that supply free Bible lesson plans, art projects, puppet skits, games, parenting articles, recipes, and ideas – you name it!

Share Your Ideas

Have fun saving money, providing quality programming, and investing in the lives of children!  What ideas have you used in your ministry to be cost-effective? Leave a comment below and let us know.

More Budget Tips: Read this forum thread on Kidology discussing children’s ministry budget per child. You can also read our tips for VBS budget.

Need more help? Then check out our series of articles titled “Overcoming Challenges in Your Children’s Ministry.”

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