Tag Archives: college

Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College: Counting Money

Next up in this “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” series is the art of counting money.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

There is not too many weeks that go by when I am not counting money. No, this is not because I make a ton of it. This is because we usually have some upcoming event requiring students to pay some sort of fee. So, after that starts coming in, I count it up, fill out the paperwork, input the data in my computer, and turn  it in to our financial administrator.

Before I start, I will say that not all churches are the same. There are some who are fortunate enough to have a financial staff that takes care of all fees for the student minister. While that can happen, my educated guess is that most are not in that situation. Instead, many ministers have to take care of accepting, counting, and organizing their finances on their own.

It is no secret that student ministers have a bad reputation of being unorganized. They are often the ones that have the messiest desks and offices, the ones who do not turn in paperwork on time, and the ones who are always breaking things. This does not have to be the case, though. So, while the others in this “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” posts are generally more funny and observational, this one is going to offer a few pointers. Here are a five tips about counting money that I did not learn in Bible college, but I did pick them up along the way.

Envelopes and folders are your friends. When it comes to organization, there are a few things you need to invest in. Take your pick on envelopes or folders. Either one will allow you to organize all money and paperwork easily. Simply place the money inside, and put it all in the same place, perhaps even filed in order.

Do not procrastinate. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but it is essential. Most of the time, you are asking students to turn in their money on time, so you need to honor them by processing it in a timely fashion. Maybe the easiest way to do this is to pick a day and time each week where you will do this. For example, maybe every Thursday morning will be set aside to count the money.

Count in public. I know you are above reproach, and you would never steal from the church. So, prove it to people. Grab someone else to help you count, count it in a common area, or at the very least, keep your office door open. One of the last things you want is to be accused of stealing money. Sometimes, counting in public is hard, especially when students are throwing money at you right before or after youth group. At these times, simply collect it, use your envelopes/folders, put it in a safe place, and count it in a public location later.

Double-check your work. When it comes to money, it is sticky, dirty, and gross. No, this is not a public service announcement for washing your hands. What I mean is that money can easily stick together. I am often finding dollar bills stuck behind another. So, do yourself a favor, and double-check your count. In fact, a triple-check is not a bad thing at all. We are human, and we make mistakes.

Let the technology work for you. While they are not the fanciest things, spreadsheets are meant to keep you organized. It doesn’t take long to setup a simple spreadsheet within something like Excel or Google. Then, each time you receive some money from a family, input the person’s name, how much you received, and the date you received it. Not only does this cover yourself if any issues arise, it will also help those who are on your church’s finance team. If you want to go further, there are more software options that allow you to do more. One of my favorites is Managed Missions, which allows you to track money and more for mission trips.

I know that you probably didn’t learn these things in Bible college. At least, I didn’t. And I know you probably don’t make a ton of money, so you’re probably not accustomed to counting money at home. Hopefully, though, these few tips will help you become a better counter of the green-backs.

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This is the fourth post of this blog series. The overall purpose is to be both fun and informative about the “practical” side of youth ministry that people often leave out of a standard Bible college curriculum. I’ve got a small list of things to talk about, but I’m still trying to figure out if this should be merely an fun rant-style or if I should actually “teach” what I am talking about. So… What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Three Ways to Keep Teens from Graduating from their Faith

This past Saturday, I attended “The Gathering,” with five other youth leaders from our church. It was a training/conference put on by Berea. This year, the main speakers were Sharon Ketcham (Gordon College) and Reggie Joiner (Orange/reThink). While they somewhat came from two different points-of-view, they both had the goal of helping churches change the staggering statistics of the number of teens who walk away from their faith and the church once they graduate high school (and youth group). Their points boiled down to these three main concepts:

Involvement in the Church
One of the issues with many church youth ministries is that they have a great program for teens, but they are not always encouraging the students to get involved in the entire life of the church. Actually, there are some churches who are even opposed to teens serving at all, let along outside the youth group. If we are going to help change the statistics, we need to help teens understand the importance of being involved, and we have to help them understand what roles they can play. At RCC, this starts with a “spiritual gifts inventory” test that we have our high school leaders take. This helps them identify some of the abilities God has given them. Then, we help them try out different ministry roles. Sometimes it works out, but other times, they realize that is not where they belong. If needed, we try again with something else. This is a similar approach we take with our adults. If all goes well, they will realize they are a vital part of the church and not just a teen who attends youth group. The goal is to help them understand this before they graduate, so they will begin craving it no matter where they go for college or work in t he future.

Churches Need to Partner with Parents
If you have been reading my blog over the past couple years, you will not find this as a completely new concept. It is the thought behind Orange. However, this might be the first time I’m writing about it in connection with helping teens now “graduate” from their faith and the church. As with the other concept, this starts when the student is still with the church, before graduating. Churches can do all they can, but the reality is that parents have more time with their kids than the church, so we need to help parents do the best they can. We need to provide resources, we need to be on the same page, we need to pursuing the same goals, we need to champion the parent-child relationship, and we need to support parents in their effort to offer spiritual direction for their kids. Honestly, a teen may not step foot into our church building ever again once they graduate high school, but they probably will keep in contact with their parents. As youth leaders, we need to make sure we take care of our parents, loving them, and supporting their efforts. One way we do this at RCC is through our monthly parent group, where we tell them what we are teaching that month, and we suggest questions they can ask at home to carry on the discussion.

Develop a Strategy
We need to develop a plan for out ministry to teens. Too many churches approach student ministry so lazily. I am thankful to my youth ministry professor, Rondel Ramsey, for teaching me this early on in my ministry career. Reggie suggest a list for “What students need to know.” He didn’t say every church’s list should be the same, but he said this was a good place to start, and I agree.

  1. God’s love is bigger than religion.
  2. I will be present even if you never believe what I believe.
  3. No one’s faith is 100%. “If you don’t allow them to process their own doubt, they will never own their own faith.”
  4. I am not trying to change you.
  5. The Bible is not just a good book.
  6. I want to help you discover a bigger story.

Sure, there are many other ideas out there, and I am definitely not saying that these are the only three keys to keep teens in the church. What I am saying that these are three great ways to start moving in that direction. We are in the beginning stages of offering more for our college-aged students at RCC, as well, so expect more insights and stories later this year on that. Until then, let me know what has worked at your church and student ministry. What has aided in your effort to change the statistics?

High School to College Transition: Beginning the Journey

Graduation Cap And DiplomaOne of the areas of youth/student ministry that I strongly believe is lacking in American churches is the transition to college. We do a good job of meeting teenagers while they are in middle school and high school, but often, we do very little after graduation. After reading The Slow Fade last year, it has been on my mind that we need to push the “finish line” back a few years. So, as we continue in this journey of making this a better transition at our church, I thought it would be good to bring you along — just in case you want to learn from our experience… or mistakes.

I believe our goal is to help students not graduate from their faith when they graduate from high school. We need to do more to make sure they continue in their discipleship, and we need to help them stay connected with God’s church.

For starters, I thought I would share what we currently do at RCC to help this transition…

  • One of our parents meet with high school students in the fall to discuss plans and help parents navigate the college application process.
  • We invite the high school seniors over to our house at least once or twice during the school year to talk candidly about their college plans. We discuss what schools they are looking at and begin to help them develop some churches/ministries around each school.
  • We try to stay connected with our college students by phone calls, Facebook, and care packages throughout the school year.
  • When they are back for summer and holiday breaks, we try to have at least one event to get them together, share stories, and catch up.

It is our goal that these things will help our college students stay connected when they go away, instead of feeling like they no longer belong to the church. We also want to do our best to partner with parents, as this can be a difficult transition period.

Can we do more? Sure we can! In fact, we have some other plans to put into place very soon. However, that is for another blog at a later time.

For now, my question to you is: What do you have in place already to help your high school students make the transition?

Orange Brought Me Inspiration

Someone told me a while back that ministry is one of the loneliest careers. At the time, I am sure I had no idea what that person was talking about. I mean, I was surrounded with peers in Bible college who were studying and doing ministry, and it was some of the best times in my life. However, college does come to an end, people move on to begin their careers and families, and soon you realize that life is not the same anymore.

It had been five years since I had graduated college, and it had been about the same since I had attended any type of ministry conference when Amy (our Director of Family Ministries) told me she would like to take a group to the Orange Conference. To this point, I had heard about it, because we were using XP3 for our youth group curriculum, but that was it. However, I was excited at the possibilities.

From the moment I arrived, I was captivated. In fact, the biggest thing that I took away from the Orange Conference in 2010 was inspiration. It was amazing to be around that many ministry professionals who were going about the same thing, focused on the same mission, and shooting for the same ending — families turning to Christ. From the worship music to the main sessions to the breakout workshops to conversations with lots of awesome people, I was truly inspired. It helped me to get going again. It helped me to realize that we are not alone. God has an awesome team of individuals working for His Kingdom, and I was able to rub shoulders with those people for a few days last year. If that is not inspiring, I am not sure what is.

While the conference did help me tweak and change some practical areas of my ministry, the spiritual and mental changes inside me were far greater benefits. Since then, I have a renewed outlook on ministry. Sure, things get tough sometimes, but when it happens, I try to let God remind me of His presence. On top of that, it is not just me. I have an awesome team of youth workers at the church, and there are many others all around the world, who are just as passionate about this ministry, if not more. All that inspires me to be a better leader and a better minister, because I never know who God might use me to reach for Him… It might even be another youth worker.

To find out more about the Orange Conference, go to www.orangeconference.org.

YM Resource – Bible College Scholarships

Are you really wanting to attend a Bible college, but finances are standing in the way?  I know what you mean.  Public/state universities are expensive enough, and most private schools are even more of a strain on the bank account.  If you are looking for some extra help, I wanted to pass along 2 scholarship opportunities:

Feel free to pass these links along to anyone who may find them useful.  I know how beneficial my Bible college education was, and I pray that money does not stand in the way of anyone else having that opportunity.  Of course, my personal recommendation is my alma-mater, Lincoln Christian University.