Is it possible to generate kids’ enthusiasm and make your ministry shine when you’re operating on a shoestring budget? The answer is yes, absolutely!
Summer break, vacation Bible school, summer vacation, family camp — you’ve had a busy summer! Why it feels like just yesterday you were selecting VBS and checking volunteers’ vacation schedules, and now the new school year is coming up.
When you think of your ministry dreams this year, are there things on your “wish list” you’d love to include that just aren’t possible with your budget realities? A nice new playground, new markers, and a smart TV, would be wonderful additions — but if your budget is so tight it squeaks, you know you’ll have to pick and choose how you spend those precious funds.
When budgets are thin, you have to deal with the reality that what you’d like may not match what you can actually do. You may wonder if it’s possible to generate kids’ enthusiasm and provide the needed resources when you’re operating on a shoestring budget. The answer is yes, absolutely! Take a look at some pocketbook-friendly possibilities.
Stock Up on Supplies
You can stock your supply closets and make your classrooms shine for a smaller budget than you think. Check out these penny-pinching possibilities.
1. Cost-Conscious Crafts
Fall is prime time to stock up on your craft supplies. Check out the savings on staples such as construction paper, chenille wire, crayons, glue, and more at S&S Worldwide. Check with local craft supply, office supply, and membership warehouse stores to see whether they’ll give your ministry a discount.
2. Supply Savings
Send invitations to your congregation members inviting them to a Supply Party. Ask each person or family to bring a needed supply from a list of items. Include time for attendees to make decorations for your classrooms and offer simple refreshments, music, and great conversation in exchange.
3. Dollar-Wise Decorating
Decorating doesn’t have to be costly. Ask families to provide pictures of their children and then cover a door, or use clothesline and clothespins to hang pictures of children along a wall. (As new children attend, add their pictures.) Ask kids to create posters of their favorite Bible lessons, and decorate your classroom with their artwork. Contact missionary families for pictures of their family, a map of where they serve, and simple items you could hang in your room to help your kids learn about them. Include a space to write missionaries’ prayer requests along with answers to prayer.
Shine With Rich Relationships on a Small Budget
While it’s a wonderful thing for a church to be able to provide playgrounds, rooms decorated in unique and fun ways, and the latest media, the most important, absolutely crucial component of effective children’s ministry is relationships. Build and encourage strong relationships at all levels among your volunteers, church members, children, and God. So let’s look at inexpensive ideas to build vital relationships this year.
4. No-Cost News
Provide a monthly newsletter just for your volunteers that keeps them updated on important events, accomplishments, and birthdays or anniversaries. Encourage your volunteers to send e-cards. Or print cards from the internet and have church members sign them — then present the cards to your volunteers in person. Printfree will let you print cards for many occasions for free. Pair volunteers so they can pray for one another through the coming year. Ask volunteers to complete information cards with their birthdays, anniversaries, children’s birthdays, and email addresses. When important dates arrive, send e-cards to let your volunteers know they’re loved. DaySpring offers wonderful e-cards.
5. Cost-Effective Connections
It’s vital to make genuine connections with kids. Volunteers can use the free websites mentioned previously to track birthdays and send e-cards when kids are absent, ill, or needing encouragement. Ask your volunteers to send a card at least once per month to each child in their group.
6. Two for One
With parent permission, encourage children to connect with each other online. Have kids exchange email addresses and give them lists of free, kid-friendly websites they can visit.
Events Money Can’t Buy
You can shine by providing events that’ll knock kids’ socks off for next to no impact on your budget. All you need is a little creativity and a little sleuthing instinct. Here are ideas we’ve sniffed out for you.
7. No Service Charge
You can find budget-friendly service projects kids will love by doing a bit of searching. Operation Kid-to-Kid provides hands-on service projects for kids that reach other kids on a global scale. Through Group’s partnership with World Vision, children raise money to buy chickens, goats, and more for impoverished families around the world.
8. Frugal Fun
Plan a fall kickoff event that’s unique and fun. Check out Steve Spangler’s website or Funology for simple but awesome science projects and food recipes. Ask families to sign up for science or food stations and provide a list of supplies they’ll need to bring. Allow families to rotate among the stations, arrange for time to sing, introduce the teachers, and announce any special events you may have planned for the coming year. Encourage families to invite friends and neighbors and generate some enthusiasm for your children’s ministry! You can find other biblical, sciency-fun ideas in Group’s Sciency-Fun WOWS!: 54 Surprising Bible Object Lessons.
9. Budget Barbecue
Plan a Back-to-Sunday-School Barbeque for volunteers and their families. Determine your menu and ask people from your church who don’t volunteer to bring ingredients. Consider hosting the barbeque at your home or a local park and plan for games, relays, and a campfire sing-along. Start the year on a high note with the message that your volunteers are valued.
Sure, there are lots of things we’d like to do if money weren’t an issue. But a shoestring budget means you have to get creative.
You can stock your classrooms, make your ministry shine, train and support volunteers, and encourage relationships at all levels of a budget. But forget cold, hard cash—all you need is a welcoming, relational ministry to impact kids for God!
Lynda Freeman is an author based in Comstock Park, Michigan.
Don’t let your budget stop you from making your vision happen. Group’s Gift Registry is a great way to ask your congregation to help bless the kids in your ministry!
Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out.
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