- In the Bronx, a 7-year-old child stares at a wall because he's
had a nervous breakdown. He lives at a homeless shelter.
- The volunteers at a middle-income church in Ohio are concerned
about a baby in the nursery who has bruises in areas that would be
very unusual for a child to have bruises. The pastor thinks it has
an economic relationship.
- A Christian education director in an upper-income church has
heard rumors of families who are living in expensive houses without
furniture. They're trying to maintain appearances at all
What do these three scenarios have in common? More than meets
the eye. Economics has a direct impact on families-whether they're
in a lower-, middle-, or upper-income bracket. And the economic
situations of families in your church influence the programs you
can and cannot do.
No church has been able to escape the recession. Families are
struggling and church budgets are tighter. So how can you make
programming affordable for kids in your church?
Keep programs simple. Arizona minister Jody
Kranz suggests cutting back. "We do a lot more in-house things than
we used to, or we combine events. We're dropping off some of the
things we used to do, like say in the past we might have imprinted
T-shirts built into the registration fee. We're not doing that now
because with the severe recession our families just can't do
Cut costs. Don't charge more than $5 for any
event kids have to pay for. "We try to do as many extremely
inexpensive things as possible," says Sandi Wright, a director of
children's ministries in Washington. "And we try not to have the
parents furnish anything. We don't ask them to furnish food and
stuff for every Sunday. I think we scrounge a lot more, and we're
actually better stewards by shopping more carefully. We realize
we're spending everybody's money. Believe it or not, we've been
able to keep things the same price for the last four years."
Pay for everything. "We try to keep costs low,"
says Barbara Salveter, a director of educational ministries in
Ohio. "We try not to do a whole lot of special events or anything
that would require registration fees if we can't pay for them
ourselves. Simply because there is a gap in finances between some
of the kids."
Make kids work. Avoid encouraging a "give-me"
mentality in kids. "When you've come from a cycle of poverty -- a
welfare mentality of three to four generations, it's very hard to
break that mentality," says Bob Whitt, program coordinator for a
Christian center for low-income children in Illinois. "We don't
fish for our kids; we teach our kids how to fish. We do what we
call a 'sweat-equity' concept. Kids have to do certain things
during the school year to earn a scholarship to summer camp."
Kids earn points by coming to Kids Club, bringing their Bible,
wearing their camp T-shirt, bringing in a good report card, and
cleaning their room at home. Later, they can turn in their points
for a food basket, toys, or a scholarship.
"We had a situation where a family got burned out of their
apartment and because the kids had been coming to our Kids Club,
they were able to turn in their points for clothes, food, and all
types of things," Whitt recalls. "So this showed the kids the
effort they put in to coming to the Kids Club and what part they
played in helping their mom get back on her feet."
Start early. Wright uses a Camp Stamp program
for kids to pay for camp. Throughout the year, kids can buy stamps
or earn money to buy stamps for camp.
"It's an easy way to save for camp," says Wright. "Instead of
saying camp is $89, they have seven months to save $10 to $15 a
month. So it's easy for them."
Kids earn money by doing odd jobs around the church such as
cleaning rooms or laminating. Other people in the church also buy
camp stamps as gifts for the children.
Give scholarships. "As far as outings go, we're
real sensitive to the fact that all children will not be able to
afford to go on every possible kind of outing that we'd want to
imagine or create," says Jeff Scott, a pastor in Ohio. "We have a
good partnership with our senior adult class in that somehow money
is always provided if there are children who may not get to go.
Then we sort of provide a quiet scholarship for them, so nobody
needs to stay home."
Raise money. "Eighty-one percent of our kids
are on welfare; we have the classic ghetto situation here," says
Bill Wilson, pastor of 13,000 children in a Brooklyn ghetto. "Many
of our 13- and 14-year-olds have never been to a mall or had an ice
Kids' basic needs go unmet. According to Wilson, "Some kids
sleep on the floor. A normal diet for them is soda and potato
chips. Kids pass out in Sunday school class."
Wilson seeks outside funding for his church. He travels across
the country each week, speaking to churches and asking for
donations to finance his church for children. Raising money from
outside sources enables lower-income churches to provide programs
for children who can't afford them.
Christine Yount Jones is executive editor of CHILDREN'S
The Money Slump
Jody Kranz, a minister of counseling and youth in Arizona, talks
about the recession's effects on children.
CM: How has the economic downturn affected
Jody: The children are more troubled and
I've been in ministry for 11 years in this congregation, and for
the first time I hear children saying, "We can't afford that," "We
would get that but we can't because my daddy's out of work," or "My
mommy's lost her job." They seem to know about money and what they
can and can't do. And they struggle with that and are in touch with
a lot of the fears their parents have.
CM: How have you responded?
Jody: We now have a support group for
out-of-work adults. They have a time of prayer and are supportive
of each other. We're looking at putting together a workshop that
speaks to that. We're also trying to be very sensitive in how we
approach the congregation right now because many families are
hurting and afraid.
CM: What specific needs do you think kids have
because of financial difficulties?
Jody: I'd say kids are afraid. That's my #1
thought. They're afraid because of the economy; they're afraid
because of the breakup of families; they're afraid because of
violence. Fear just kind of rolls from level to level in the
different areas of their lives. It's a scary time for kids.
Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.