By: Jenny Bruce
You've probably noticed that this blog is full of avid readers. Take Jeff's deep devotion to the works of N.T. Wright. Or Norm's desire to read through Calvin's Institutes. Or my love of Lucky: The Magazine About Shopping.
I was reading said magazine the other day when I stumbled upon a shocking fact. According to the article "Major Looks, Minor Prices," people are apparently keeping close watch on how they spend their money. Intrigued, I did a little research and discovered that this country is currently in what economists call a recession. Who knew? And I guess these recessions can sometimes stick around for awhile, so people are becoming more frugal.
As it often does, reading Lucky got me thinking about the local church and I began to ponder how ministries can best spend their budgets in these financially trying times. It seems that in many cases (mine included), a percentage of a ministry budget is allotted for outreach events and programs (camps, concerts, after school clubs, etc.) I've got no guff with outreach programs generally, but I do think we need to be wise in what types of programs we schedule. Thus, in order to be a better steward of this year's childrens' ministry budget, I plan to follow this criteria:
1. All outreach programs will meet a practical need in the community.
I love my city. I want to see it thrive. And I want my neighbors to know that my church deeply cares about the welfare of the city. One way we can show our devotion is to invest in programs that help the city, like free arts education or theatre, free ESL classes, health clinics, etc. I believe we further God's kingdom and He is glorified when we show compassion to our neighbors.
2. The success of an outreach event will not be measured by church attendance.
We let our light shine before men so they will see our good works and glorify God. The goal of good works isn't increased church attendance. The goal is that God will be glorified. I want each event to practically demonstrate what God is like to the community and to be deemed successful even if no one ever shows up on Sunday. I don't want people to feel like we have ulterior motives in serving them and are primarily concerned with promoting our particular church.
3. We won't reinvent the wheel.
My city has an amazing swimming program. Almost every kid I know is on a summer team and they have an incredible experience. Our church does not need to provide another community swim program. The city already has a great one and our church kids should join and get to know their neighbors. However, our city doesn't have a free theatre program for elementary schoolers and our church has the resources to provide one. These are the types of programs in which I want to invest.
4. Programs should be accessible to everyone.
All programs will be free or as cheap as possible and offer scholarships for those who can't afford that price. We'll fund them by cutting costs in other areas or finding creative ways to raise money.
So that's my criteria. Hmm, I think it's time to curl up with a hot chocolate and a good book. Luckily, there's a copy of Martha Stewart Living nearby.