Veteran youth worker Kelly Soifer says, "I have three operating premises when needing to raise funds for youth ministry"...Donor Fatigue:
churches tend to wear out their people by "going to the well" far too many times. Church staffs need to be strategic about how each ministry plans its fundraising projects. If the children's ministry has a jog-a-thon to raise money for new playground equipment, and the Ladies' Missionary Society has a potluck to raise money for Bibles to distribute in China, and the college students hold a carwash to raise funds to go to a missions conference...
You get the picture. The entire church, including the youth ministry, needs to work together to arrange a strategic calendar for fundraising. Otherwise, there is burnout, and ministries (and church members!) suffer unnecessarily.Fundraising is a Teachable Moment:
I always like to see fundraising as an opportunity to help my students develop in their own spiritual discipline of giving. I want their fundraising experiences to make them want to give their money away in their future. For example, I have taken students on missions trips to Central America five times since 2000. Each time, I have had them exclusively raise their support through writing support letters. This takes a lot of work ahead of time and planning meetings to teach them how to do it.
However, I do this because I want them to appreciate what it's like for missionaries to raise funds for their entire careers. If my students struggle to ask for funds for a two-week mission trip, they can imagine how hard it might be to raise funds for several years of work! Repeatedly they have told me they came home from our trips and started supporting the missionaries we worked with on site because of their own experience of asking for support.Maybe We Need to Cut Back:
In lean economic times, I often counsel youth groups who feel beaten down by fundraising to evaluate whether they need to adjust their plans. For example, many summer camps cost upward of $400-600 for a week. While camp is usually a valuable and unforgettable experience, it may be too much work to raise funds for that. This summer, a friend's urban youth could not raise the $200 each of them needed for a camp that already was subsidized. So she let go of her camp plans, and her leaders opted to take smaller groups camping at state and national parks at a greatly reduced cost. They ended up having an extraordinary time -- none of these inner-city teens had been camping in the woods before. It was a great switch and reaped excellent dividends.
I had to raise personal support for years as a staffworker with Young Life. I had to raise funds for camps and conferences as a youth pastor. I've written grants to raise funds for non-profits -- and I'm so grateful for this experience. I grew in faith. As a an American with a college education, those years of fundraising taught me dependence on God when I occasionally wondered where my next meal was coming from, or when I faced having to layoff my entire staff when the budget fell short at the end of the fiscal year.
See fundraising as a natural part of our ministry, not as a burden. We must live by faith, not by sight.