So you have a great group of teens and you are psyched about how God is moving. But there’s just one catch: you have a low budget and don’t know how to keep up with other ministries that have all the bells and whistles. Well…don’t worry, do something about it. I keep hearing from Catholic youth leaders that they have a small budget or that their budgets have been cut. Most parishes operate on a budget that starts in July. If you find yourself in a situation where your budget has just been cut or you have always operated on a small budget – here are 3 ways to not only survive but thrive with less budget dollars:
1.) Transparency and Communication - I remember a time when my dad was starting a company out of our basement. He was so transparent when he gathered my brothers, sisters and I together and told us that we didn’t have any money because he had to buy products to sell. He assured us we were going to be fine, we just didn’t have a lot of money and we would need to make sacrifices. I remember that it inspired me and I immediately went to my bedroom and got my piggybank and gave it to my dad to help our family. If you are facing a small budget or a budget cut, communicate with your family (core, teens, and parents) what the situation is. Don’t be bitter or negative, just let them know and assure them that things are fine and while some things might need to be changed, you are there for them and committed to them and to the mission! If your paid staff or your hours have been cut – pray and ask for more volunteers. You might be surprised how people may rise up to help. Make all your communication holy by making sure you you build up the body of Christ. Avoid negative comments about your bishop, pastor, fellow parish staff, finance committee, parish council or parishioners. Stay above the fray and you will be able to keep a view on the larger goal of leading teens closer to Christ.
2.) Get Creative and Enlist Outside Resources - Just because you don’t have the funds to purchase things, go to training, add staff or provide food at events – don’t give up! Ask other people for creative ideas how you can still provide for the needs of Catholic youth ministry at your parish. Ask local stores, attractions and people to donate things for the teens. I have a hard time asking for things for myself, but I have never had trouble asking for things for the teens. Create a list of needs and go out and talk to people and tell them it is for the mission of leading teens closer to Christ. I once had a local grocery store donate all the out of date products to our parish for the teens. The sodas might have been a little flat but the teens still had soda and food after Life Nights. Ask restaurants to sponsor events and meals. You may get some no’s but you might just be surprised how many yes’s and how much you will get people to donate. Often times training for you and your core gets cut when budgets are trimmed. Get creative and ask if there are people in your parish willing to sponsor your core to attend training, convention or camps. Often times people have frequent flyer miles they can donate for travel. Remember Life Teen is offering free training conference registrations for the next year for any priest who wants to attend a conference. We also offer parishes scholarships for Life Support and Edge Support. We don’t want to see any parish not be able to get the resources due to finances. There is an online application available on this site if you want to see if you qualify.
3.) Take Advantage of the Free – There are a ton of great free resources at your fingertips and down the hall. Just because something something is free does not mean it isn’t good. Here are 3 examples.
- Lighting for Life Nights – Teens spend so much time under florescent lights at school, it’s best if we can set the environment by adding lights that enhance the environment. Ask your pastor, DRE, parents, nuns or core to borrow lights from their offices or homes to set the mood for Life Nights. Try to live with the realization that everything is God’s anyway, maybe God will move in people’s hearts around you to share His things!
- Free Downloads – Take Gimp.org for example. It is basically a free version of photoshop capable of editing photos and letting you show amazing photo montages to teens and parents. Or try another free download called PollEverywhere.com and its LIVE audience polling. It is completely free and you can literally ask a question and students can text in their answers. You can even post the results live on a projector or TV in your meeting room.
- Relational Ministry – No matter how flashy the church or parish down the street may appear, nothing trumps solid relational ministry. The good news is that it is free and has the most impact. Pope Benedict reminds us that young people are transformed by witnesses. I know parishes that have big budgets but don’t even know the names of the teens who show up. Maybe not having a budget is a blessing as it will force you and your team to spend more time developing relationships with your teens and families.
So how are you doing with a small or a non existent budget? Don’t let the fact that resources are short in your budget defeat you and the ministry you share. The reality is that simple is really in these days. Teens are more moved by silent prayer time this summer than they have been by the huge moments of full band led praise and worship. Remember that all the extras can sometimes get in the way. I always try to focus on the blessings of the ways that God is spoiling us, rather than thinking of how He is not. For those of you who work day in and day out with very little resource and achieve amazing results – thank you from this youth minister who needs the reminder that it’s not about a budget it’s about Christ!