Stretch Your Budget


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.)

For more great articles like this, subscribe to our magazine. SUMMER SALE! Only $15 for one year!


  • 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 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
    church bulletin.
  • 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.
Straight to the Heart


Children's Ministry Local Training

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


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


  • 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


  • 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 or 800-875-8480); Current, Inc. (www 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.
Recruiting Secrets From a Veteran


  • 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.


  • 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
    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.


  • 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
Recruiting Gen Xers


  • 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.


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

Patti Peters
Kissimmee, Florida


  • 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

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Children's Ministry Magazine

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