The minor league baseball team that I serve as chaplain is doing a promotion this week
“Ball-less” baseball…in celebration and recognition of feminism (only in New York, right!)
But what a clever title…if you get it (i have to stay PG on this blog ladies and gentlemen)
This randomness does have a point which you will see later.
A good friend of mine is a youth pastor about 20 miles down the road from me. Traditionally his church, like my own, has a good amount of money. We are both located in bedroom communities of NYC and the majority of our congregants work in the financial district down in Manhattan. Stock brokers, hedge firms, bank CEO’s, etc..
Well, last year his church gave him $35,000 to be used for youth mission trip. With that kind of cash, he decided to bring a large group to Africa and partner with a denominational missionary. Awesome stuff.
He was told that another $35,000 would be given to him for this year and naturally he planned a few mission trips and basically his youth ministry around that promise of financial bling.
Then the ball dropped on the US economy and of course our county was one of the hardest hit because everyone worked down in Manhattan. I estimate that close to 50% of his church lost their jobs, not to mention everyone losing big in their savings and retirements. People who usually give thousands extra from their stock options couldn’t give. People had little to no money to tithe. You get the picture.
The church relinquished the money for youth missions and went a step further and took away the yearly youth ministry operating budget.
Now I am not bashing the church. They did what they had to do in this tough economic crisis we are in. After all the needed to pay the staff and the heating bill, and I suppose I would rather lose my mission budget then my job or have to work in freezing temps for 8 months of the year.
But can you imagine planning your entire year and mission programs believing that all of this money was at your disposal, only to have the rug pulled out from beneath you months before the trip?
Students went scrambling to raise money to go and unfortunately over half of the students planning to go this summer are not able to as of yet.
But this whole situation got me thinking…what if this happened to me? What if this happens next year?
What would i do? How would I react?
Would the youth ministry remain solid and strong? Would we find ourselves in a crisis situation
I started to realize just how much money plays a vital role in our current structure of youth ministry.
So, here is my question( which relates in a way back to my opening statement)
Can youth ministry exist in a money-less context?
Can we have $$-less youth group?
If so, what would it look like?
I wonder if we have succumbed so much into the marketing and materialistic side of culture that we have forgotten what youth ministry is all about!
Now, my friend’s initial reaction was that God would find a way to provide. That is good theology and I believe it….in part.
But how much will God provide? The entire $35,000?
What if God only provides $12,546.82?
Have we set ourselves up to be completely dependent on the dollar?
Does our economy dictate our youth ministry structure? Should it?
Listen, I am to blame on this one. As I write this, I look at my summer calendar full of days trips, service project weeks, movie nights, mini-golf, etc…
Almost every single event costs money. Even the activities we do at the church, while they may not cost our students money, take a toll on my youth budget. But the elders don’t mind because it gets students here and so it is money well spent. Or is it?
In the course of an average year, if a student were to participate in every event we offer, they would probably have to shell out between $1,000-$2,000. But parents don’t mind since the price of golf memberships here run $30,000+ with $5,000 annual fees. Hey, a few grand to keep my kid involved in church is a great deal.
Now for students who cannot afford, we offer scholarships to ensure that every single student can go if they want to. But again, everything revolves around money (and in a sense entertainment)
I realize this is where our culture is, and I do believe in embracing culture. But I also believing in the power of Jesus to transform culture in areas that are counter biblical.
It appears to me in the books of Acts that monies collected in the early church went directly to help the widows and orphans and to feed the hungry. At some point, even Paul argues, that those who do the Lord’s work should receive money for it so they don’t have to work elsewhere. But I wonder where in the history of Christianity did the tithe money go towards funding students boat trip on the Seal of Galilee, their ski trip on Sinai, and purchasing the latest lights to trick out the synagogue teen room!
What would it look like to do youth ministry that requires no money?
I also realize that part of this dilemma may be cultural. I have served briefly in some inner city youth ministries that have no budgets and whose students cannot afford daily meals, let alone weekend retreats. They find a way to have dynamic youth ministries based on community and identity, without having to break open wallets or piggy banks (does anyone have those anymore anyway?)
Perhaps we in the burbs can learn valuable lessons from other contexts. While their economic situation necessitates no budget ministry, perhaps we will come to realize that it is our spiritual and kingdom situation that requires such an approach and change.
Can meetings really exist without pizza?
Can we do retreats locally at homes and churches and charge nothing and have just the same affect and outcome?
Could we find enough fun and free events and activities to do to keep our students busy but also connected?
I am trying to think of the last time I brought them to our local park.
People’s houses can easily replace restaurants.
Parks and pools can be fun summer outings.
All I am doing now is asking the questions to myself and to you. I would love to hear stories (any stories) of how you have done it or are in the process of this kind of rethinking.
I realize that in many other ways our society is going “less”
What about a youth ministry that is $$-less
YM Budget free?
Send your thoughts, ideas, dreams, and visions over and let’s share together.
Let me know what has worked and what are some areas that you feel can be $$ less and others that might not be able to.
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.