Handling Money in Youth Ministry

A few years ago, I wrote about counting money as a youth minister, but I felt it was time for a follow-up.

Other than the people who handle offerings, it is quite possible that a youth minister handles the most money within a church. Between retreats, mission trips, pizza parties, and much more, students and parents are always handing money to the youth minister. Some churches have set plans in place, but others do not, and it can get complicated for those youth ministers. This is usually where temptation or incompetence can come in and destroy someone’s ministry.

If you ask my students, they will tell you right away that I am not the best at counting. Even though I got an A in calculus, I have trouble doing a head-count when we’re getting ready to leave on a trip. So, when it comes to counting money, I tend to count it many times. If it a substantial amount, I will even have others count it before I hand it over to the finance team to do their own count. Maybe you’re like me, or maybe you’re a math wiz. Either way, we need to put some accountability in place to avoid temptation and incompetence.

One of the best things about modern technology is the ability to do online event registration. There are several services, but I have found Eventbrite is one of the best. They allow you to setup each event with a set of questions, where you can get students’ names, contact information, and more. If your church has a management system or database, check with them to see if they allow for online event registration. We use Planning Center Online at our church, so almost all our events now go through PCO, which makes it incredibly easy. Not only can they register and pay online, but it is all tracked on our database for future reference. On top of all these benefits, I am handling way less money than before.

Online event registration will always have fees attached, though, as they come with all online transactions. PCO is connected to Stripe, though, which gives churches a discount. They also give us a set amount of free transactions before they charge. If you go with online registration, make sure to ask about nonprofit discounts, but just be aware of the fees. Then, just budget for the fees within your youth budget or work them into the cost for that particular event. For example, if you have an event that cost $100, and you know you’re going to have a 2.2% online transaction fee, just work that $2.20 right into the overall cost or plan to “eat it” in your budget.

Last year, we also produced a mobile app for our church. One of the tabs within the app contains our event calendar, complete with links to register right on their phone or tablet. You can also post these links to register on your website and social media. This allows for easy social marketing, too.

Some of you do not have the ability to do online registration, though. I get it. For all of you, here are a few things that have helped me over the years:

Have students put their money in a sealed and marked envelop. A friend of mine told me he once had students toss their retreat payments in his front seat during an outdoor game. When he went back later, he found piles of cash with no record of who it was from or anything. Save yourself some confusion by not accepting money without it being in a sealed envelop with their name and event on it.

Record it and pass it on as quickly as possible. Youth Ministers have a lot going on. Between busy schedules and students bouncing around everywhere, it is easy to get sidetracked and misplace money, only to find it weeks or months later. Do yourself a favor by having a place where you put all the money you get. Whether it be a folder or a box, just get something. Then, be sure to record what you need and get it out of that location as soon as possible. If your church has a safe, put it in there. If you have to hand it over to the finance team or make the bank deposit yourself, just do it quickly before you lose the money.

If possible, have students/parents put the money directly in the offering. Some churches require the youth minister to keep all records of incoming event money. Others have a team that handles all of that, who then gives records to the youth minister. One way to avoid handling that much money is to work it out with the leadership and finance team to allow for students and parents to turn in their payments right in the offering. Just make sure they put it in that clearly marked envelop so it gets recorded properly. Now the finance team is responsible for counting and recording, and they pass on the records to the youth minister.

Always count in a room with others present. If you have to handle money, make sure you are counting with others present, especially when it comes to cash. It is extremely difficult to steal a check, but you can easily misplace one. Cash, on the other hand, can be very tempting, especially on a small (or non-existent) youth ministry salary. Stay above reproach by having someone else present each time you handle the money. I know. At times, this can be extremely difficult. Just do your best to stay accountable.

If youth ministers were allowed to keep all the money we handled over the course of a year, we would be rich. Well, maybe not rich, but we would have much more than we do now. However, we are not tax collectors from the first century. We are called to be better than that, so we need to take all the precautions we can to not fall into temptation. At the same time, parents are intrusting their children and their money to us, so we need to be incredibly responsible with both.

If you have another tip, feel free to leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear the ways you keep yourself away from both temptation and incompetence when it comes to money.

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