I must admit that I was pretty bummed when my supervisor told me that because of the shortfalls in giving, every ministry had to cut their budget by 10% for the upcoming year. My immediate thought was, “How can we continue to do all we do with 10% less money”. When the time came to present this to our leadership team at our annual planning retreat, I had no idea how God would use the cuts we were being forced to make in such a powerful way in our ministry.
When we sat down to discuss our new budget, we were all hesitant about where to make such significant decreases. We realized, however, as we began our discussion that in some ways the bad economic picture was a blessing to us. We were forced to do a hard and honest reevaluation of our student ministry. What was really important? How were we spending the money God’s people were faithfully giving to us?
We began to map out what we felt God would want a student from our ministry to look like when they were a sophomore in college. As we listed those characteristics, God also led us to evaluate our calendar from the previous year and highlight the areas where we were doing ministry that would lead students to the point we felt God would want them to be.
The result of that conversation was a much more focused student ministry purpose. We realized we had been cramming our calendar full, while mistakenly thinking we were driven by our purpose. We were able to take a hard look at our crazy, event filled summers and determine that less can be more. We discussed the value of our volunteer hours and how much more important mentoring and investing in a student is than staying up all night supervising them at a lock in.
We began to streamline our ministry into three areas: Connect, Grow and Go. We wanted to only pursue things that would connect our students to God and to each other, help them grow in those relationships and help them go live like Christ in their world. Programs that didn’t fit in those categories were removed (even some that were student ministry “sacred cows”) and we found a new passion for our purpose. Another surprising thing we found was that when we presented what God had shown us to our students, who joined us on the second day of the retreat to aid in planning, they understood it. They knew that our time had been overbooked and were completely on board with narrowing the scope of our ministry to focus on quality rather than quantity.
At the end of the retreat our team was able to bless our congregation by submitting a budget that was 14% lower than the previous year! We are confident that the choices we made will help us to better serve our students, our church and our world. It took a bad economy to help us to see that our ministry had lost its focus and to lead us back to the things that matter most.