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 beginning.
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, puppets, or a
TV, and DVD player 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
Stock Up on Supplies
You can stock your supply closets and brighten your classrooms
for less than you think. Check out these penny-pinching
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 (www.ssww.com) and Oriental Trading Company (www.orientaltrading.com). Check with local
craft supply, office supply, and membership warehouse stores to see
whether they'll give your ministry a discount. Explore www.christianfreebies.com -- a Web site with
free resources for children's ministry.
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
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.
Penny-Pinch Puppets -- Add new puppets to your
ministry with the help of creative teen-agers. Enlist older kids'
help in making fun and unique puppets for your children's ministry.
Easy-to-Make Puppets (Gospel Light) is an excellent
resource filled with ideas for creating your own puppets. Simply
provide popcorn, music, and puppet-making supplies, and set your
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. If your ministry successfully builds
and encourages these relationships, nobody will notice whether
you're using a VCR or a DVD player. So let's look at inexpensive
ideas to build vital relationships this year.
Frugal Training -- Before classes begin, plan a teacher
training for your volunteers. Arrange for your local bookstore
seller or curriculum publisher to provide a curriculum trainer, and
provide ample time for your volunteers to get to know one another
and pray for each other. For low-cost training ideas, go to
www.childrens ministry.com and click on Web Extras.
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. My Card Maker (www.mycardmaker.com) and Printfree (www.printfree.com) 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 (www.dayspring.com) offers wonderful e-cards.
For more e-card sites, go to www.childrensministry.com and click on
Free Adoption -- Find out which adult Sunday
school class your volunteers would attend if they weren't teaching
children. Then visit each adult class mentioned and ask for class
members to "adopt" corresponding volunteers. Class members will
take notes or record each class for the volunteer. An "adoptive"
class member also communicates prayer requests and keeps the
volunteer informed of planned parties or events.
Cost-Effective Connections -- It's vital to make
genuine connections with kids. Volunteers can use the free Web
sites 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
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 Web sites
they can visit. For a starter list, go to www.childrensministry.com
and click on Web Extras.
Events Money Can't Buy
You can provide events that'll knock kids' socks off for next to
nothing. All you need is a little creativity and a little sleuthing
instinct. Here are ideas we've sniffed out for you.
No Service Charge -- You can find budget-friendly service
projects kids will love by doing a bit of searching. Get started
with these ideas:
- www.biblesfortheworld.com --
Children send Bibles to people around the world.
- www.ok2k.org -- Operation
Kid-to-Kid provides hands-on service projects for kids that reach
other kids on a global scale.
- www.worldvision.com --
Children raise money to buy chickens, goats, and more for needy
families around the world.
- The Big Book of Service Projects (Gospel
Light) -- This book is filled with ideas that won't crunch your
- Give-It-Away Crafts for Kids (Group) -- Kids
will get hooked on making wonderful, inexpensive crafts as
Serving together is a terrific way for children to connect with
each other, and it doesn't need to cost a lot of money. Volunteers
can select a project to get kids serving together at least once or
twice a year.
Frugal Fun -- Plan a fall kickoff event that's
unique and fun. Check out Steve Spangler's Web site at www.stevespanglerscience.com or Funology at www.funology.com 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
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
The entire purpose of your ministry is to connect children with
God and help them develop a personal relationship with him. Here
are cost-effective ways to help kids make that vital
No-Toll Highway -- With parent permission and
supervision, provide children with Web sites where they'll find
Bible stories, devotions, games, crafts, recipes, and more.
Pennies for Thoughts -- Encourage volunteers to share weekly how
they personally grew closer to God by reading the Bible, praying,
or coming to church. Post these stories for all to see how people
• • •
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
You can stock your classrooms, decorate, train and support
volunteers, and encourage relationships at all levels for a
bargain. But forget cold, hard cash -- all you need is a welcoming,
relational ministry to impact kids for God! cm
Lynda Freeman is a freelance writer in Comstock Park,