Let's face it, if you've been in children's ministry for any
amount of time, you know one of the issues that surfaces repeatedly
is the need for money. Whether it's for equipment, operational
costs, special programs, or events, money can be the stumbling
block that keeps your ministry from moving forward, or it can be
the impetus for fresh vision and change.
Yet, because of fund-raisers galore with kids' school and sports
teams and activities, how can you do a fund-raiser that doesn't
feel like another burden to kids and parents? Consider combining
fund-raising with fun.
Community Garage Sales
This is a lot easier than having a rummage sale at the church.
Find several host locations by asking volunteers to donate their
front lawn or garage for a day. Check to see whether your town or
city requires garage sale permits in advance. Solicit donations
from families in the church, and have people deliver the items
directly to the host sites the night before the day of the
Print fliers that list all the locations, and have these
available at each garage sale. People who stop by the first garage
sale will now have the addresses and directions to the other ones.
This is also a chance for you to have fliers for your children's
ministry or church to hand out to those stopping by.
At the end of the day, simply pack up what's left and drop it
off at the Goodwill, or arrange to have a nonprofit organization
pick it up. To add to your profit, consider selling soft drinks and
Hosting a Wheel-A-Thon is a fairly easy way to raise money and
have fun, too.
Secure a location in a park, or just turn your church parking
lot into an event field and let the rolling begin. Bikes, in-line
skates, skateboards, scooters, even remote control cars are all
allowed at this family fun activity. We ask for a donation entry
fee of $20. We also allow free entry to anyone who can't afford to
Divide your location into separate areas, set up a registration
area, and you're ready. Have races, prizes, and awards throughout
the three-hour event. We've asked area stores to donate prizes and
Pop Bottle Sunday
Once a year, our church has a special service called Liberty
Offering Sunday. Our entire church participates above and beyond
tithing by bringing a sacrificial offering. To help kids get
involved, I handed out 2-liter soft drink bottles to all the kids
six weeks in advance of this special service. A major supplier
donated and delivered the soft drinks at cost. I attached a poem to
the front of each bottle, which explained what the project was all
Kids took the bottles home, enjoyed the contents, and then
washed out the bottles to turn them into banks. Then they collected
pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars to fill up the
banks. A pop bottle full of pennies alone totals approximately $30.
We also gave kids ideas every week about ways they could earn money
to fill up their banks.
On Liberty Offering Sunday we celebrated with everyone by having
a pizza party and ice cream. We also gave prizes for bottle
decoration categories to make the day even more fun. On average,
each bottle returned to us had about $35 in change. Our first year
we did the fund-raiser, the kids raised a whopping $4,000 in a
single day. Last year, they topped $12,000!
Every year, we host a Halloween alternative. Not only is this
popular with our church families, but it has also become a huge
The first few years we had to host fund-raisers to pay for the
event because we offered it for free. Then we decided to charge $1
admission for everyone coming in the doors, including the adults.
That simple change allowed us to expand to add limousine rides, air
bouncers, and more to make the event bigger and better. We also
sold carnival bracelets that allowed kids unlimited play at all the
events and games. Concession sales, photographs, and special event
items are other ways you can raise funds at an event.
To our surprise, parents were more than happy to contribute the
dollar. We offer free admission to anyone who can't afford to pay
and discounts for large families; grateful parents are often
willing to volunteer in exchange for admission. The key is having a
quality event that's well worth the cost, and offering free
admission to keep from eliminating anyone from being able to
Slumber Not Parties
A couple times a year, we host 12-hour overnight parties for
elementary-age kids. Don't toss out this idea as being too hard!
Outside of missing a couple hours sleep, it's one of the easiest
fund-raisers we do.
The party begins at 8 p.m., and ends at 8 a.m. We charge $20 per
child, and that includes pizza, ice cream, snacks, games, and all
activities. We spend around $5 per child on food. That leaves a
profit of $15, so at $1.55 an hour, that's cheap baby-sitting!
For the first hour and a half, we have open game time. Then the
pizza arrives, and we begin a more structured large-group activity
such as Bingo. Finally, around 11 p.m., we have a big-screen movie.
By the time the movie ends, most of the kids are ready to sleep.
Boys and girls sleep in separate classrooms. However, after the
movie, we don't tell them it's time to go to sleep, we just escort
them to the rooms, dim the lights, put on a movie playing softly,
and let nature take its course.
The key to this event's success is to have plenty of adult
security and monitors. We allow kids to come free if their parent
will chaperone the event. We always have more than enough
volunteers this way. (We do make sure that all volunteers have been
screened in advance. We also go over the rules and restrictions
during their training time before the kids arrive.) You can assign
volunteers to sleeping shifts, so you always have a team that's
awake and alert for kids who might wake up in the night.
Kids love the chance to hang out in the more casual setting, and
it gives them a chance to form new friendships. Teachers and
parents also have a chance to get to know kids and each other
better. Some of the parents who chaperone our event end up having
so much fun that they join our teaching team afterward.
Money-saving ideas don't require a line of credit. Here are 10
of my favorite ideas.
- Color it. Paint covers many things and brings new life to old
pieces. Paint for plastics provides instant facelifts at a fraction
of the cost. Remember to work in a well-ventilated area when spray
- Recycle it. Contact elementary schools to let them know you're
willing to take any decorations teachers discard. The end of the
school year is a great time to get freebies.
- Update it. Paint the walls to update any room. See if your
church or another group will have a work day to paint. You can save
on paint by checking the bargain bin for gallons that weren't the
right tint for the original customer.
- Stock it. Set up an organized supply area with items stored in
boxes or buckets that are clearly marked. Turn pieces of
construction paper into labels. Write what's in the container and
secure the label with tape. If you don't have a storeroom, use a
shelving unit or a cabinet.
- Post it. Ask for free promotional posters at a Christian
bookstore to add color to plain walls. Hang some at children's eye
level, but avoid having sharp pins where little ones can reach
- Hang it. Brighten up bulletin boards with leftover tissue
paper, wrapping paper, fabric, or disposable tablecloths. Add
details by using items such as kids' scuba gear, Christmas
garlands, and T-shirts. Keep in mind how long you expect the
bulletin board to last and choose materials that'll last that
- Inflate it. Inflatable beach toys store easily and add
excitement to a room or an outdoor activity. We keep beach balls
around because they're safer to use than traditional playground
balls, yet they're still fun.
- Share it. Seek group discounts for bigger activities and
combine with other churches. During the summer, see about reserving
a local pool or putt-putt golf course. In the winter, plan a game
day at an area gymnasium. You can also see if some area attractions
have free admission days.
- Repurpose it. Turn household items into playthings. Use a bed
sheet, tablecloth, or large blanket to place small stuffed animals
on. Then have the kids bounce the sheet without the items falling
off. Or use the bed sheet, tablecloth, or large blanket to create a
puppet theater by draping it over two chairs. Give the kids paper
lunch bags to create puppets to retell a Bible story.
- Beg for it. Keep an ongoing list of recyclable items you can
use in crafts for your children's ministry. Staples are frozen
juice lids, coffee cans, paper towel roll tubes, and paper printed
on one side. There are tons of crafts you can create with these
items for free.
Elm Springs, Arkansas
Sue Kahawaii is a children's minister in Tacoma, Washington.
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are
subject to change.