Many of our youth ministry events are what we consider “break even” events – essentially what we charge students ideally covers the cost of the event. No matter the size of your youth ministry budget, if you are fortunate enough to have one at all, you want to always watch what you spend. Times are tight (which is why we love DYM’s inexpensive philosophy) so every dollar counts. It looks like an upcoming event of ours is about to go catastrophically over budget and cost us quite a bit of money. In the middle of fixing that today!

Here are the tweaks that would help to make sure it doesn’t happen to us again:

RULE #1: Buying in advance is wise, if you’re careful.

Reserve conservatively in advance. I’m all for saving money – and usually booking something as a block, as a group or in advance will all net substantial savings. But big savings don’t matter if you can’t fill the seats. Remember only to reserve that you can for sure fill – you don’t want to be the youth worker forcing kids to go because you’ve still got 98 tickets to the baseball game or 32 spots left on the bus to summer camp.

RULE #2: It is always easy to add a few more.

Plan for a few less than you think will be there. Too often as youth workers we get optimistic about how many people will be there, so we plan a significantly larger budget than what actually shows up. Hence, lots of leftover pizza and the event doesn’t come close to breaking even. Now, be sure to never run out of pizza, but make sure you really strive for an accurate number when working on your first draft budget.

RULE #3: Know that something will come up.

Build in a little contingency. Something will most definitely come up – so plan for it. Take 5% of your event budget, and don’t assign it to anything. Gas prices go up, but you’ve got a little in reserve. A few students couldn’t pay, but you let them in anyhow, so now there’s expenses with no income to offset it. But you created a little contingency – and if you do have any leftover at the end, take a volunteer out for lunch as a thank you for serving at the event.

RULE #4: Charge a little bit more
 than you need
If you charge just a little bit more, it could make a big difference. Just remember that each dollar is an impression, the cost on a flyer is still very much a big deal. Charge too much and people can’t afford it, and too many high-priced events lead to people forming an opinion of the type of student that is expected to attend the program. But there’s little difference in $25 or $29 for an overnighter, and for a camp at $314 might just as well be $329.

What else can we do as youth workers to help break-even events break even?