Paying For Youth Ministry

The parents of the students I work with are asked to contribute to the cost of the church’s ministry with their teenagers multiple times during the year, and I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t a better way.

Like most churches, ours conducts a stewardship drive in the fall to raise pledges toward next year’s operating budget. Youth ministry staffing and youth ministry program expenditures are in that budget.

Then we conduct fundraisers toward the costs of mission trips. The entire congregation is invited to participate in this, of course, but the backbone of involvement is the families of students. What parents give at a pancake breakfast or bake sale is in addition to the “suggested contribution” toward the trip’s costs we’ve already asked them to give.

We also suggest a parent contribution toward the cost of retreats.

There is money in the operating budget for mission trips and retreats. Parents support that operating budget with their pledges and offerings. But then we also ask them to contribute toward those events’ per-person costs and to kick in for fundraisers.

The dominant feeling I have about this is gratitude for the faithfulness and generosity of church folk when it comes to supporting ministry with teenagers. Many, many of those givers are not themselves parents of students, and the ones who are know full well they are supporting more than just their own kids. I think that’s marvelous.

But I’m also curious if it’s the norm, this multiplication of asks from parents. Does your youth ministry do this, too? Do you plan on parent contributions toward things like mission trips and retreats?

5 thoughts on “Paying For Youth Ministry

  1. Yeah, we’ve struggled with this very same dynamic in our church. In the past 7 years I’ve been working with the youth ministry at University PC in Austin, we’ve never had a dedicated operating budget line item for youth missions and have relied heavily on our four yearly major fundraisers parents (which, as you said, is double dipping – or triple dipping in my case where parents are also asked to donate food toward the meal the youth cook then sell back to their parents). Honestly though, it has felt at times that the only interaction the larger church has with the youth group as a whole is when we’re trying to fundraise, which sends the message that the youth are somehow a drain on the church or a begging bowl.
    This year, I’m requesting that Session create a “Youth Missions” operating line item and fund 1/3 of the total projected cost of the trip. From there, youth families will be asked to fund 1/3 of their youth’s trip participant cost and youth will be asked to fundraise a 1/3 as a group (we don’t do individual fundraisers). A division of responsibility and support like this allows everyone to have some skin in the game and takes a bit of pressure off of families (and me, frankly). I do also lean from time to time on a handful of individual special donors in the church if I need help providing a scholarship for a kid or something.
    Anyway, I hear you with this question. Thanks for asking it out loud instead of just mulling it over while quietly banging your head on your desk… like some other person I know who definitely isn’t me.

  2. When Bill Clinton was a teenager, tall and gawky, his single mother, Virginia, hung out at the gambling casinos in their town, Hot Springs, AK. She wanted young Bill to join her at the casinos so she wouldn’t have to go alone. He declined and joined the youth group of the local Baptist church. He was very sympathetic to Virginia so he could have gone either way.

  3. Rocky, we had a similar situation at my church a few years ago. We do have an advertised cost for any trip/event we do for students and we (the church) cover additional costs. I don’t think we ever have had an event where the church has not paid something above what we have asked from the students. I also know what the total cost of the trip is going to be for the entire group so the fundraising seems to go both ways: toward the student’s individual cost and the group’s overall cost. However, a few years we ago we had a monthly lunch (9 months of the year) after church and it was exactly what you described…parents provided the food, parents predominantly were the only ones who stayed, and the students worked the event. All for $200-$300/month. After some conversation with some of our parents we decided to end that monthly lunch. Then we tried a special event like a Valentine’s Banquet where we did it nicer and bigger. We made $1000 our first time. The next two times we raised $800+ and $700+. We clearly saw that doing one or two events bigger and better, whether church focused or community focused, have raised similar, if not more, funds. Our second fundraising event is a “welcome to summer” churchwide lunch and we have never raised less than $600 at that. So two events a year have totaled almost $2000. This is what we do now. We also allow students to things like support letters that aid toward their specific costs.

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