No matter what size their budget is, children's ministers are
always looking for ways to save money. That's why we asked
experienced penny-pinching children's ministers to give us their
best ideas for "streeetching" dollars. You'll find 55 of the best
of their best ideas below. (And as a surprise thank you to them,
we're going to stretch their budgets by giving them a free
subscription to Children's Ministry Magazine that they can read or
share with a team member.)
- When craft supplies run low, send "needs slips" to your senior
citizens' Bible study for donations. Donating items helps these
people be part of your team.
- For Christmas gift baskets for Sunday school teachers, put
together a sample basket early in December. Then ask the adult
Bible classes to financially sponsor the baskets.
- Keep your junior church offerings to fund everything you
- Gladly accept hand-me-down equipment.
- Have a "baby shower" for your church nursery, and put up
pictures of the items you need (put each item on a paper apple to
be picked off a tree).
- If someone works for a large company, have that employee ask
his or her company to donate whatever items they can.
- Call businesses to see if you can have their leftover
- Get expensive items donated by adult Sunday school classes or
wealthy individuals so that other, less expensive things can be
bought without too much worry or fuss.
- At the end of a season, many greeting card stores are willing
to give away seasonal cards, wrapping paper, and novelty
- Many large companies will send promotional items that can be
used as prizes or craft items. Christian recording artists'
promotions people will often send you posters, CDs, and
- Ask for food donations from restaurants or grocery stores for
volunteer appreciation events or special children's programs.
- Keep an ongoing donations list of items you'll need in the
- On every brochure for a paid program, include a plea for people
to contribute to a scholarship fund.
- Ask a church member to sell your church's older toys or
unneeded children's furniture, equipment, or books in a garage
- Check out whether denominations or local businesses will match
funds for your fund-raisers.
- Sell Christian-wear such as T-shirts and sweat shirts imprinted
with your church name or logo.
- Hold an annual children's ministry garage sale. Ask people to
donate their unwanted "treasures."
- Sponsor a weekly church dinner if your church has one. Have
your children's ministry team members each bring several casseroles
and side dishes. Everything you make is pure profit.
GIVE US A HAND
To stock our resource room, we had a Give the Resource Room a
Hand campaign for two weeks right before school started. We created
a huge bulletin board in our foyer with paper hands. Each hand had
an item we needed written on it.
Church members took the hands from the board and then donated
the items. After items had been turned in and the resource room was
stocked, we had an open house to say thank you.
DO IT YOURSELF
I create my own giveaways. By working with a promotional
products company, I've been able to give away items. My artwork, a
gospel message, and our church name can be imprinted on flying
disks or pencils for about half the cost of similar items sold
through Christian suppliers.
- Ask a local print shop to donate partial rolls or stacks of
- For arts and crafts projects, save recyclable items. Then do an
Internet search for ideas using the items.
- Ask carpet stores for carpet remnants for children to sit
- Ask every vendor you purchase from if they offer a
- Recruit a resource manager who's gifted at finding the best
deals in town.
- If the price is right, purchase items you don't need now but
will use later.
- Know where to shop. Save money with Oriental Trading Company,
Inc. (www .oriental.com or 800-875-8480); Current, Inc. (www
.currentcatalog.com or 800-848-2848); and TeacherCentral
(www.teachercentral .com or 800-246-8400).
- Have someone watch the ads in the newspaper for items on
- Christian bookstores will often offer great savings on
overstocked or outdated items.
- If you have a children's ministry network of local area
ministers, have a book swap every month.
- Adopt a resource-challenged church and donate "gently-used"
curriculum-and save their budget a considerable amount of
- Borrow VBS decorations from other churches who've used the same
- Rather than purchasing videos, use your library where many
videos are free. Many churches and denominations have lending
libraries. If you're really up to the challenge, create your own
videos with a camcorder and some creativity.
- Share expensive items with neighboring churches or the youth
department at your church, especially items you only use
occasionally such as camp-recreation supplies.
CUTTING TRAINING COSTS
- Use volunteers or staff as speakers at retreats.
- Bring speakers to your church rather than sending large numbers
of volunteers out to seminars. This strategy often increases
participation and you're not spending money on food, lodging, and
travel. Link up with other churches to help share the cost.
- Look for guest speakers such as missionaries on furlough and
others who are looking for churches who want to hear about their
- Cut costs on camps by doing your own cooking and renting
time-share condos rather than staying at a camp.
- If your Christian bookstore awards coupons with each purchase,
order your curriculum there, and let your congregation know about
the program so they can save coupons for your program.
- Buy crayons, scissors, and glue before the school year
- Buy equipment from school-district warehouses who get rid of
- Buy used. Watch for preschools and private schools that are
closing in your area or are upgrading equipment. Ask about
purchasing their used furniture, equipment, and supplies.
- Seek out doctors who own their own practices and attend your
church. They can purchase your latex gloves and other nursery
supplies at a reduced cost.
- Buy everything in bulk from a membership warehouse.
- Ask self-employed or small-business owners to purchase
wholesale supplies and furniture and resell items to the church at
their cost plus taxes.
- Keep track of the return date on unused curriculum to receive a
- Purchase curriculum that can be used at different times or
repeated each year. Reuse teacher books and unused student
- For special events, ask children to bring their favorite snack
- Give each Sunday school class the responsibility of donating
different items for a special event.
- When doing fundraisers for camps or other programs, allow
children toearn money specifically for their registration. Have the
first $25 that each child makes, though, go into a general fund to
pay for scholarships and other expenses.
MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE
To save money on kids' choir music, we partnered with a
children's ministry at another church. We made sure both churches
ordered their own copies of consumable items or those copyrighted
for purchaser-only reproduction. However, we shared major items
such as visual aids, teachers guides, puppets, and even stage sets
and props. One church bought the music while the other church
poured its money into rather costly sets.
We planned our musicals for two different times in the year so
that both churches had five months to prepare and put on the
USING THE INTERNET
- Use e-mail for your publicity and correspondence. Sign up for
free e-mail services with Juno (google) or Hotmail (yahoo). Send
parent reminders for upcoming events and weekly notes to children.
Encourage and inspire volunteers by e-mailing teaching tips, staff
news, and helpful Web sites.
- Surf the Net. Searching the Internet for necessary supplies
will save you hours of time, and you may find lower prices.
Contributors: Tony Barger, Alice Bell-Gaines, Teri Berkness,
Rick Chromey, Esther Felt, Dick Gruber, Deb Harrell, Keith Johnson,
Carmen Kamrath, Pam Keefover, Lisa Keeling, Christine McNeal,
Jennifer Nichols, Patti Peters, John Purdue, Melinda Scheich, Chris
Stewart, Nadine Stillwell, Gary Webb, Gordon and Becki