In the christian education wing, we are thrifty. We can make crafts or play a game with a stack of donated egg cartons. It can be intimidating to try to convince your pastor, education board, or financial administrator to approve a budget for faith formation curriculum. These tough discussions about money are worth it, however, if the money you invest brings you committed volunteers and engaged kids.
So if you’ve found a product you are excited about and supports your ministry goals, here are some steps you can take to help gain budget approval.
Who has a stake in which curriculum you’ll use? Leaders, parents, board members, pastors? Involving them in the decision-making process helps the curriculum reflect the needs of your full community, and gives you some built-in advocates when it’s time to ask for money. Print out some samples, and ask your stakeholders to take a look.
I’ve found that asking folks individually works better than leaving materials out for anyone to peruse. This lets me choose folks who are representative of our congregation and can be the most useful time to involve skeptics, too. It’s easier to have debates while you’re looking at samples than when you’re asking for money.
Write Your Budget
Figure out what the curriculum cost will be for the year. Along with the costs to purchase print resources, Bibles, and digital subscriptions, include the costs of general classroom and lesson supplies, as well as staff time preparing the program each week. Many of these expenses may already be covered in other areas of your budget – but putting it all in one place helps your church’s leadership put the curriculum costs in perspective with your church’s total faith formation spending.
Include volunteer costs, too. How many people will be needed to use this curriculum and how many hours a week will they need to spend preparing and teaching? Include this on the same document, it helps give a picture of the church’s total financial and human stewardship in the program.
If you anticipate questions about what you’re doing, be prepared to answer the “what if’s” with numbers. What would it cost, for example, to buy a cheaper curriculum that uses more staff hours to adapt lessons and round up supplies?
When my board questioned why we needed to buy the student leaflets, I highlighted the times the leaflets are used in the sample lesson. We talked about what it would mean for the leaders to make up alternate activities for each of these instances, and what that would mean for recruiting volunteers. Since one of our ministry goals was to find a curriculum that was efficient for leaders to use, they decided that yes, it was worth the money to buy that element of the curriculum.
Hold a Sample Sunday
Sample Sunday offers a chance to preview a new resource, but it is also an opportunity to let all your stakeholders appreciate where the community’s money will be going. Make sure your Sample Sunday gets noticed in worship. Visit with adult groups to share how this curriculum fits with your church’s mission and goals. Display elements of the curriculum in your fellowship space for the congregation to browse.
If there are still questions about how the church will pay for the curriculum, this is an excellent time to be upfront about your ministry needs. If this year’s budget is already set, a Sample Sunday is still a great way to keep your congregation informed and excited about how offerings are being used to support your faith formation ministries.
Your early childhood, children’s, youth, and adult curricula are tools to help your community learn, grow, and pass along the stories of our faith. And when you find a resource that fits your church well, you can free up staff and volunteer time to build relationships. When your budget stakeholders understand that connection, they will see that investing in curriculum and those who will use it will be money well spent.