How To Build A Student Ministry Budget

When you felt a call into student ministry, you likely were excited about hanging out with students, growing in faith together, and making a difference in the Kingdom. You probably weren’t super excited about building your budget (maybe you didn’t even know what a budget was). Building, submitting, and following a budget can feel overwhelming, and if you don’t do it correctly, it could be an issue for your ministry in the future. Your budget should serve as a gift and a resource that drives and empowers your ministry to be as effective as possible! 

If you’re someone who has a yearly budget to build and you need some guidance on where to start, read on for 3 things to consider and a few sample budgets to help you out. 

Consider it an act of worship. 

Matthew was a tax collector who unjustly charged people more than they owed and pocketed the rest for himself. He was far from God and only repented of his ways once he followed Jesus. We’re not assuming you’re pocketing extra pizza money, but Scripture does tell us that stewarding finances well is a sign of spiritual maturity. In many church contexts (if not all), budgets are set with finances given through tithes and offerings. You are trusted to honor those who gave sacrificially to continue the ministries of the church. Rather than dreading the process or giving it half your effort, show gratitude and spiritual maturity by giving full attention and commitment to creating a budget that honors God. 

We also recognize that you are likely working within limits set by someone else (if you have an unlimited youth ministry budget, call us!). Do not be discouraged if you look around and see youth ministries down the road with “more.” Scripture is full of stories of God using small offerings to do big things. It may cost $2-3 to buy the student a coffee, but it costs $0 to have a conversation about Jesus.   

Look back before looking ahead. 

It is important to look back and consider old budgets and spending habits before you can look ahead. You may want to do this with other people around you to help remind and guide you, especially if you are new in your role. Use these questions to serve as your starting point for discussion: 

  • What was last year’s budget? Did it serve your ministry well? 
  • Where did you go over budget last year? Where did you have money leftover? 
  • Was there anything you wished you’d written in last year that you can write in this year?

Be honest and be willing to listen to feedback. As you head into this year, consider making a note on your phone or computer labeled “Budget Thoughts.” As you’re going throughout the year and something comes to your mind (“We should budget for ________”, or “This wasn’t the best use of our money”, etc.), write it down to help remind you as you prepare the budget next year (look at you – planning ahead!).  

Think through and categorize your entire year. 

Once you’ve evaluated and learned from the previous year(s), prepare your new budget. You will need to think through two specific areas: calendar and categories. First, look at the calendar. When do you need to purchase your curriculum? What events are you hoping to put on, and when? How much pizza will you need every week, and will you charge for it to offset the cost? When is the deposit for the camp bus due? The overall budget is important, but anticipating costs and when they’ll come up is also important. 

Second, what categories do you want to include? This may be somewhat limited if you are working within a more generic structure based on your church’s systems. However, if you are able to be specific in your categories, considering the following major areas:  

  • Administration Supplies (speaks for itself)
  • Curriculum (yearly curriculum costs)
  • Weekly Programming (pizza, snacks, prizes, game materials)
  • Camp/Retreats (bus costs, camp scholarships, leader registrations)
  • Student and Leader Care (meeting with students, appreciating leaders)
  • Environment (stage design, room updates, etc.)

Remember, budgets are a gift and a resource that drive and empower your ministry to be as effective as possible! We hope this is a helpful tool to get you started on a solid budget this year and in years to come. 

Want to see some examples of awesome youth ministry budgets? We love this spreadsheet by Trevor Hamaker. This budget is a more detailed approach that provides explanations for each item. Finally, Tim Levert created a budget template that gives a month-by-month breakdown, so you can be extra prepared! 

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