How does the clarity of purpose affect the Bottom line when financing youth ministry? Edit

By Bryan Laue

Youth ministry can be a very challenging, but at the same time it can be very rewarding. One of the greatest challenges today in youth ministry is not having a budget equal to the needs throughout the conference. There is however something more detrimental to youth ministry then a small budget, that is a ministry run without a clearly communicated purpose. If people do not know what your ministry is about and where it is going, they are less likely to be involved, or support it financially. The question this paper will address incorporates both the financial concerns shared by the youth director as well as the results of the research done on the topic. The question that has been wrestled with is, “How does the clarity of purpose affect the Bottom line when financing youth ministry?” People need to buy into who you are and what you are about, before choosing to be part of your financial support team.

Current Evaluation Edit

In order to understand the current condition of youth ministry throughout the conference, a survey was given during the first few months of 2007. Individual participants included in the survey were several conference office employees, pastors, youth leaders and people involved in youth work throughout the conference. Among those surveyed there were various levels of experience, responsibilities, and training which helped to broaden the results. The survey was directed at those actively involved in youth ministry in order to understand the current issues facing youth ministry today. The outcome of the survey was very interesting and revealing concerning the perception of youth ministry throughout the conference.

The survey revealed that very few people had a clear understanding of the purpose or mission of youth ministry. When asked about the purpose of youth ministry there were a variety of responses, which included, programs which keep kids in church, involvement of youth in ministry and spiritual growth. For the most part the purposes shared were focused on events or aspects of youth ministry rather than a specific purpose; several noted that they were not sure about the purpose of youth ministry in the conference or that it was not very clearly communicated.

The survey also took into account the leadership and structure of youth ministry. It was unanimous that the youth director was doing the best job he possible could and that he was greatly appreciated; at the same time several pointed out that he could only be at one place at a time. There was enthusiasm with the addition of local pastor assisting in youth ministry one Sabbath a month, but again several noted that it was still too little in light of the present needs. The organization and structure of the youth ministry relies heavily on the youth director contacting and working with each church or youth group on a regular basis, except for Pathfinders and Adventurers where much of the responsibilities of administration have already been broken up among the different levels of leadership. The structure of youth ministry is perceived more as individual events and programs rather than tools being used strategically in order to accomplish a specific goal. In order to best utilize the gifts of all involved it is noted that great care should be exercised in developing long range plans that incorporate strong communication as well as public relations among those active in ministry.

Discipleship is central to youth ministry. This is a fact which is agreed upon throughout the conference. Everyone asked about discipleship said that it is essential and are willing to be part of it; though some are not really sure what discipleship entails. Several responded that they were already involved in discipleship by participating in the Teen Leadership Training weekend, while others said that discipleship is what they wanted to do, but struggled with consistency in mentoring and learning how to disciple. Some felt that Pathfinders was the ministry to the youth in the church and if the youth wanted to be involved in discipleship and mentoring they could just join pathfinders which was open to everyone.

Another area that yielded some very interesting points was the part of the survey that dealt with the strengths and weakness of youth ministry as seen throughout the conference. In this section of the survey it was intriguing that the Conference saw the lack of funding as a much bigger problem then the lay people involved in youth ministry. In fact, only one person not at the conference level even mentioned it as a weakness. This fact caught me off guard and sent me searching for what exactly does affect the bottom line of the budget? The results of this survey and research proved to be very insightful in regards to this question. Several people mentioned that they did not feel that the Conference level as a whole promotes and supports youth ministry. It was stated that youth ministry was something that is mentioned very quickly and then passed over for more important issues. The leaders also brought up that they struggled with the fact that many pastors and members in their congregations were not involved in the youth ministry at their churches, nor did they support it.

Everyone agreed that the strengths of youth ministry in the conference included having the youth director, the conference Camp and the mission trips that are done yearly. There was also a strong emphasis on the fact that those who were involved in youth ministry were very devoted and hard working. Those surveyed listed a number of things they were passionate about in regards to youth ministry. These included seeing the youth participating in ministry, the camp utilized effectively for ministry, along with, Mission trips and equipping the youth to be disciples for the work of Jesus Christ. The main focus seemed to be on the youth having ownership in the mission and being part of the work.

The dream of most of these leaders and the conference office is to see youth leaders mentored and grown through discipleship, involved in service to others, growing in their personal walk with Christ, actively involved in the church, and challenged by the goal of reaching the lost. There were also dreams about the day when there would be a full time pathfinder director as well as a full time camp director. It was interesting that the dream for growth in the Adventist educational system was also mentioned, only once though and by a person at the Conference level.

After careful evaluation of all the information that was collected through the survey and the conversations with these leaders, these are the conclusions that have been assessed. First, there is room for growth in regards to the big picture of youth ministry as it is seen throughout the conference. The survey results showed that youth ministry is seen as events and programs rather than everything being part of one focus. There also should be continual growth and development in regards to the organization and structure of youth ministry, in order to make it more conducive for discipleship and planning for up coming events. When it comes down to personnel, we just need to clone the youth director, but the fact that we are fundamentally against cloning means we will have to seek other options. In order to structure youth ministry so that it is more conducive for discipleship, there needs to be a team of lay people who can function as his “go go gadget arms” reaching areas and doing things that he would love to do, but is not able, because he can not be in two or three places at once. This team would need to be discipled in youth ministry so that they, in turn, could disciple others and strengthen this dimension of ministry.

Helping others understand the Big Picture Edit

One of the things that kept coming up during the research was the need for having a statement of purpose. Volunteers do not always have the knowledge or understanding about the purpose or “the why” of youth ministry that the leader has in mind, so it is important to share that information with them. In Proverbs 29:18 it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish. ” People want to be part of a ministry that has a vision or purpose and will follow if they know where you are going and where you want to be in the future. Also having a purpose statement keeps everyone going in the same direction instead of people going off on their own paths. Having a clearly defined purpose also creates an element of excitement as people have a clearer picture about what God wants to do through the ministry. It also provides a degree of accountability among the team, by asking, “Are we fulfilling God’s mission for youth ministry through our actions?” Youth ministry is not its own separate entity, but is to function as a supporting ministry of the church as a whole. Because of this youth ministry shares its mission with the church but is personalized for a younger audience. The purpose statement that is put together should be simple, meaningful, action oriented and compelling. Doug Fields does a good job of bringing these all together in his book, “Purpose Driven Youth Ministry.” Fields builds his purpose statement off of five main purposes found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40). The five purposes he meshes together into one purpose statement are: Worship, Ministry, Evangelism, Fellowship, and Discipleship. While these are the words that churched people can understand, our goal is to use words that especially un-reached youth can understand. Fields does this by personalizing the words without compromising the meaning behind them. For evangelism he uses the word “Reach”, for fellowship he uses, “Connect”, for discipleship, “Grow”, for ministry, “Discover”, and for worship, “Honor.” Then he goes and puts together his purpose statement including these purposes. Here is how he put together his statement of purpose:

“Our youth ministry exists to REACH non-believing students, to CONNECT them with other Christians, to help them GROW in their faith, and to challenge the growing to DISCOVER their ministry and HONOR God with their life. ”

In his book Fields really makes people examine and believe in the importance of having a clear and constantly communicated declaration of purpose. People need to believe that they are going somewhere and at the same time see that they are making a difference.

Extending Youth Ministry Edit

Since cloning the youth director is not practical, the Bible offers a very good solution to this common challenge. In Exodus 18, Moses’ father in law sees that Moses is going to wear himself out with a task that is too much for him by himself. So Jethro councils Moses to disciple men who can aid him in the work that he is doing, allowing Moses time to deal with the bigger issues that need to be addressed. Some results of this advice being taken is that Moses has less stress, he is not worn out as much and the needs of the people are met with ever greater efficiency.

Jethro’s council has some good wisdom when it comes to the youth ministry leader. It is not good to kill off the youth director by over working him, so in order to ensure that he will be around for years to come, it seems wise to establish a support ministry to aid him in youth ministry. The members of this support ministry would be discipled by the youth director, but at the same time they could function independently when needed. The role of this ministry would be to coordinate all matters dealing with promotion, development, finances and it would be instrumental in training and discipling for youth ministry. Such a ministry could be modeled after the structure of the Youth Federation Model that is found in the appendix A of the “Pastor’s & Elder’s Handbook: for Youth Ministry. ” There would need to be some changes made in order to make it more modern and meet the needs of the conference. The members of this discipleship group should come from different parts of the conference in order for everyone to have a voice. It might be wise also to change the name to something less galactic and more modern than Youth Federation. Such a ministry would enable stronger communication and bridge the gap between the conference level and the leaders in the local churches.

Enhanced communication among members and leaders will bring greater awareness about the purpose and direction of youth ministry as well as clarity about bigger picture. Because of the level of heightened communication, each member of the Youth Federation model will be able to share the understanding of the needs and projects of the ministry with those on the local level that can help meet those needs. It is that personal connection to the perspective donor and knowing their interests that can make all the difference in the long run. The members of this ministry should also be involved with the local pastors in discipling youth leaders on the local level who can also continue to disciple others. Not only does the ministry support team strengthen communication and discipleship throughout the conference, but they would also be instrumental in raising funds for youth ministry. They are able to work hand in hand with the leaders and church members and develop relationships that will be instrumental in establishing financial support teams in each area. And when there is a specific need, because of the established relationships and communication, the ministry support team will be able to match the need with a specific financial support member who shares the same burden. In affect this model creates a financial support team through good communication, relationships and a common purpose or goal. Next we will explore how to build a financial support team.

Bottom line Financial Support Edit

Just because you have a good cause, does not mean that money will automatically arrive on your door step begging you to take it. Ministries have to attract a financial support team the old-fashion way, by earning it. People do not naturally just give away money, but if you present them with a challenging project that is in line with their interests you will find support. In order to succeed you must explain: “why you need the funding, why your project is compelling, who will benefit and why you need the money now. ” The request must be specific, people-oriented and have a sense of urgency. There must be a strong rational for asking for support. Not only must your prospective supporters be moved intellectually, but they must also be moved emotionally. When people give they need to feel that they are investing in something and getting something in return. They need to feel that, by supporting youth ministry, their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren will be better as a result of giving.

When raising money the group must set a realistic goal. It cannot be too high or too low, but a number that will inspire the group to work harder to reach that great victory. Everyone who is in this group and out raising money must be adequately trained in all the do’s and don’ts of fund raising. It is also important to set a target date, because it is human nature to procrastinate and deadlines add pressure to get things done. When approaching fundraising, one of the common downfalls of many beginners is believing you can raise the goal by dividing the amount you need to raise among all likely donors and everyone giving the same. There are several reasons this does not work. First, not everyone will give, which is a reality that is part of raising money. Second, donors tend to give in relation to what others give. If someone with five times more money gives the same amount you are being asked for it may not go over too well. Lastly, by setting a specific amount for everyone you set the ceiling on what someone generous might want to give.

A personal connection is very important when doing fundraising. Use press releases, brochures and pictures as aids not solicitation devices. Ninety percent of donations come from individuals. It is best to have a face to face approach, if that is not possible use an appeal to a small group, if that is not possible make a phone call, the key is it needs to be personal . In order to have personal connection with donors you first have to have cultivated a list of prospects. This list can begin with those who have already given in the past. The best way to cultivate interests is by using a mixture of printed material, special events and personal attention. It is also important that you be yourself and cultivate people as you would want to be cultivated. Also donors give more if they see a ministry, not as just a ministry, but as people. It is only after you have reached out, informed people of your work and meaningfully involved them in your ministry that they will give substantial gifts. Through this interaction the potential donor understands your goals and their importance and buys into your purpose. This is not something that happens over night, all of this takes time, but it pays off in the long run.

Before approaching the potential donor and asking for a gift it is important that you have developed a relationship with that donor based on the connection they may have with your ministry. Next, what kind or size of donation does the potential donor have the ability to give? If you have done your homework, you will know. More often than not campaigns fail not because people did not give, but because they were not asked. And when you ask, it is wise to ask for a specific gift that has been matched ahead of time with the potential donor’s interests in the ministry. Have a simple budget put together for each concrete need, include what the donation will go for, projected impact, who it will affect, how many people will be helped and the function of the project or event. After the donor has given the gift, make sure to do follow up with a card and a phone call. After the project is completed send a report to the donor with pictures of the people impacted and how their money was used responsibly. Continue to keep your donors up to date with how the ministry is progressing and invite them continually to come and be involved in the ministry .

Conclusion Edit

It is clear that the clarity of one’s purpose does in fact affect the bottom line when financing youth ministry. Prospective donors want to understand what your goals are and how you are going to get there. If there is nothing directing your ministry toward a solid goal then the chances of getting there are very slim. Donors want to know that their money is making a difference and if the ministry is not clear in its purpose and goals, it is going to be a strong deterrent for potential donors. People want to know and understand what they are buying into before they get on board.

The discipleship ministry model that was proposed is of vital importance, because it bridges the gap between the conference level and the local church. It provides a way to have excellent communication, strengthen discipleship and broaden the awareness of specific needs throughout the conference. It also allows ministry members to develop relationships at the local level and establish financial support teams that create a larger pool of perspective donors. This structure also allows the donor to make an informed decision that will benefit not only their children and grandchildren, but children throughout the conference for years to come. This is how the clarity of purpose and the discipleship ministry model affects the bottom line when it comes to raising money for youth ministry.


1. Fields, Doug. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry: 9 Essentials Foundations for Healthy Growth. Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.

2. Gane, Barry. Building Youth Ministry: A Foundational Guide. La Sierra University Press, 1997.

3. "Pastor’s & Elder’s Handbook for Youth Ministry." General Conference Youth Department. Silver Springs, MD: 2002.

4. Peterson, Chris. "Fund Raisings 20 Biggest and Most Costly Mistakes, Don’t You Make Them.” 23 February 2007.

5. "The Bible." The New King James Version.

6. Turpen, Ken. Personal Interview. 21 Feb. 2007.

Youth-Ministry SurveyEdit

1. When it comes to the Youth ministry in the Conference, what is its purpose/mission? What is it about?

2. How is the structure and leadership of youth ministry meeting the purpose/ mission in the conference? How does it function?

3. What is the role of discipleship when it comes to youth ministry?

4. Would you be willing to be part of discipleship in youth ministry and disciple others in it?

5. What are some strengths and weakness you see in the youth ministry in the Conference?

6. What aspect of youth ministry are you passionate about?

7. What is your dream for youth ministry in the Conference?