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Stretch Your Budget

Dick Gruber

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.)

DONATIONS

  • 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 need.
  • 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 materials.
  • 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 items.
  • 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 T-shirts.
  • 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 church bulletin.
  • On every brochure for a paid program, include a plea for people to contribute to a scholarship fund.

FUND-RAISERS

  • Ask a church member to sell your church's older toys or unneeded children's furniture, equipment, or books in a garage sale.
  • 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.

--Patti Peters
Kissimmee, Florida

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.

--Dick Gruber
Bloomington, Minnesota

RECYCLING

  • Ask a local print shop to donate partial rolls or stacks of unwanted paper.
  • 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 on.

BARGAIN HUNTING

  • Ask every vendor you purchase from if they offer a nonprofit-organization discount.
  • 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 sale.
  • Christian bookstores will often offer great savings on overstocked or outdated items.

SHARING

  • 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 money.
  • Borrow VBS decorations from other churches who've used the same theme.
  • 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 ministries.
  • Cut costs on camps by doing your own cooking and renting time-share condos rather than staying at a camp.

SMART SHOPPING

  • 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 starts.
  • Buy equipment from school-district warehouses who get rid of old furniture.
  • 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.

CURRICULUM BUYING

  • Keep track of the return date on unused curriculum to receive a credit.
  • Purchase curriculum that can be used at different times or repeated each year. Reuse teacher books and unused student booklets.

INVOLVING CHILDREN

  • For special events, ask children to bring their favorite snack or drink.
  • 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 musical.

Patti Peters
Kissimmee, Florida

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 West

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