Unlike other ministries within the church, Children’s Ministry is very materials-driven. By that, I mean that you can purchase curriculum for an adult class, make sure you have coffee and Styrofoam cups, and you’re good to go! Sure, for Youth you need sporting equipment and lots of pizza, but how often do they have to buy crayons, markers, glue sticks, construction paper and all the other classroom staples? Hardly ever, right?
That doesn’t count all the crazy theme and event stuff we do that requires all kinds of materials from 4’x8’ insulation panels to build backdrops to (dare I say it?!) glitter. Given the constant change and many events we do in kidmin, we need to be creative and resourceful in obtaining our supplies so that we don’t blow our budgets on “One Hit Wonders” – things you use once, then throw away.
I have always worked within a limited budget, and recently we had to take a very significant belt-tightening in our ministry. (Can you say 50%? Ouch!) However, I have no fear, because God always amazes me with surprising ways to get what we need, as long as we are endeavoring to follow where he is leading.
Creative ways to resource your ministry when money definitely is an object:
Curriculum on a Budget:
- Try free! There are a number of sites that have free lessons. Rotation Workshop is a one that has full lessons for many Bible stories, not just the “greatest hits”. Go here to check it out: http://www.rotation.org/
- Try something a little different – Children’s Ministry Deals has lesson sets to purchase inexpensively, from 1-12 weeks. Find them here at: http://www.childrens-ministry-deals.com/
- Build your own. This requires time and effort, but you can make it perfectly suit your group, and you use the Bible as your guideline.
- Or use blogs such as FutureFlyingSaucers! It has great resources that can be used for last minute needs, Awana counsel times, special occasions, and any other Bible story times you might have.
Classroom Supplies on a Budget:
- Ask for donations from your congregation. Do a “Supply Drive” at the beginning of the school year, or ask each family to donate a box of crayons, a set of markers, and a package of gluesticks.
- Check to see if your local school district or municipality has a recycle/reuse facility. These places are gold mines! The items are usually free and you can find all kinds of things to use. Empty containers and bottles, paper, heavy cardboard tubes, carpet pieces, pencils and pens. I once found 25 boxes of art pastels – for free! – at a local recycle center!
- Thrift stores are your friend. Any decent thrift store will have things you can use. Robes, long shirts, dresses, and hats for costumes, paints, games, bins, boxes and other containers for organization, books, toys, games and a whole lot more. If you’ve never been to a thrift store, just take your hand sanitizer and go – you’ll be surprised at what you find!
VBS and Event Décor on a Budget:
- Get the word out! If you need seashells, inflatables, beach hats and beach umbrellas for a tropical theme, put it into a flyer in your bulletin or newsletter or announce it from the pulpit. People are usually happy to lend you things like that. Last year, we had a safari theme. There was a lady whose entire basement was decorated in an African theme. Guess who got to use all that stuff?
- Did I mention thrift stores? They are a themer’s best friend. You can find so much for just about any theme you can think of, as long as you use your imagination. For instance, I found this little “Operation” game:
Not only can the kids play the game, but with a little dressing up, it becomes a centerpiece on a table for our Science Camp.
Use what you already have. I hate buying things I can only use for one specific event, or for one-time use. Often people run out to the party store and buy a bunch of posters and little paper hangy things and such like when they need to decorate a room. Even if you have a ton of money, that is not at all cost-effective. Look around all your spaces with an eye toward what you need, and try to think what could be used to give you the look you are going for, or even used to build something you need. Case in point: This is the volcano we built in our gym.
I didn’t want to have to make a 20’ high plywood or papier-mache edifice, which would have to be thrown away or stored afterward. Instead, we used stacking chairs (we had tons of them!), stacked and placed in a circle to a height of about 15 feet.
Here are some favorite, inexpensive items I recommend:
Then we got some 8’ poles that we slid in between the top 2 chairs of each row, so that the tops stuck up. We then used brown painter’s paper from Lowe’s (about $9 a roll at Lowe’s, we used 2 rolls) in strips all the way around to make the exterior of the volcano. We added some foam insulation and red metallic shreds to look like lava, and there you go – a giant volcano for about 25 bucks!
So take your list of things you need for your ministry and see if you can find what you need “out of the box”. I hope these tips are useful, please let me know what you think.
I’m Joy. I’m a 20 year veteran of Children’s Ministry, currently Director of Christian Education at Neely’s Creek Church in Rock Hill, SC. Coffee and chocolate are the 2 major food groups, as far as I’m concerned. You can find my blog at http://joyunhindered.com/