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Should Students Help Fund Your Youth Budget?

Last week I posted a poll on how much fundraising youth ministries are expected to do in order to fund the youth ministry budget. It reminded me of a time when a person in a church I was serving at suggested that we save some money by cutting some of the youth ministry budget then making up the difference with teenager-run fundraisers. The stated reason was that they ought to be contributing something to what they want to do, since they don’t contribute much to the church budget.

If I remember correctly, it was all I could do to just keep my mouth shut and not say anything I would regret.

I’d be willing to bet that many youth pastors have experienced the same thing. Please understand: I don’t believe that shoveling wads of money into a youth ministry budget is the answer to reaching teenagers. Too many churches assume if they pay the money to hire a youth pastor and give him or her a big budget, they’ve done all they need to do to minister to teenagers and their families. However, to think that the youth who are part of a youth ministry should “pull their own weight” and do fundraisers in order to have a youth ministry is just ridiculous. Here’s why:

We shouldn’t minister to people based on how much they can give to the church budget. Hopefully, your church doesn’t support a homeless mission or food bank based on how much the people served give to the church. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to teenagers?

Youth Ministry isn’t a social club, it’s a gospel-centered endeavor to help teenagers know Jesus. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If you want to see people around the world come to know Jesus, give to missions. If you want to see teenagers transformed by Jesus, give to youth ministry. Youth Ministry–just like the Church as a whole–does not exist for those who are already a part of it. It consists of those who know Jesus and exists for those who don’t yet know him.

A tight budget is no excuse for not investing in teenagers. Yep, money is tight, and many times, it’s all a church can do to keep the doors open, let alone put money into a youth ministry budget. If it comes down to it and there’s just no money for youth ministry in the budget, it’s not up to just the teenagers and their families to find a way to love the teenagers in their church, including those who have never heard of Jesus or been to church.

Teenagers should be taught faithful stewardship, not to “earn their keep.” What does a teenager learn when he or she is told that to have a youth ministry, they need to provide the funds? Certainly some events require a registration fee, but when teenagers in the Church are told to “earn their keep,” they are being taught that they can stick around as long as they are productive. THAT’S LEGALISM AND HARD-NOSED, DAMAGING RELIGION! Why not say to the teenagers of our churches, “We love you, and we want you to know that we want to invest in you.” Then we teach them how to be good stewards of the gifts they’ve been given, including using the youth ministry as a way to help reach their friends, and being faithful stewards of their own incomes by giving of their resources to serve Jesus.  

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Benjer McVeigh is a Small Groups pastor at The Heights Community, a multi-site church in northern Utah. He loves helping pastors be better leaders so they can lead better churches, and he blogs at www.BenjerMcVeigh.com.