The three foundational components of VBS planning are a calendar, budget, and an event schedule. Together these three documents create a framework for the event and provide direction for everything from enlisting workers to purchasing snacks and crafts supplies. Last Thursday's post focused on creating a planning calendar. Now that you know your purpose and have a finalized calendar you are ready to create or rework an existing budget.
The first step is to review budgets and actual costs from previous years. I like to have financial information available from the previous three or four Bible schools for comparison. By reviewing the expenses from multiple years I get clearer understanding of how the dollars will actually be spent during the current year. Having information from multiple years also helps with projecting for growth.
When reviewing expenses keep in mind you may have received donations of supplies, decorations, and snacks that are not reflected in the totals. While you hope to receive similar donations this year it might be dangerous to assume that you will. As best as possible I assign a dollar figure to donations that are typically received. With this information I either budget funds to make up for any loss from low donation response or make a plan to solicit similar donations for the current year.
Numbers are important to a budget, but just as important is the research that justifies the numbers. For each budget line I include notes that will help me remember how I arrived at the number. The notes will also help anyone else who has to pick up my budget and make sense of it. For example, the line for curriculum cost for kids might have $229 in the projected cost column, but in the notes column I will justify the amount by writing, "100 kids x $2.29." This information not only helps me justify the budget to the finance committee, but is a tremendous help when I start preparing the budget for the next year.
Before assigning dollar amounts, take time to make a quick list of every conceivable expense category. Remember the worker thank you gifts you wanted to purchase last year at the last minute? Where would that purchase have fit in your budget? It is better to dream and make adjustments now than regret once the budget is finalized.
This is also a good time to work with leaders of other ministries to determine which expenses might be shared. The music or worship ministry might be able to share some of the costs for stage sets and props. The hospitality ministry might be able to share or cover the expense of paper goods used for snacks. The evangelism or outreach ministry might be able to share a portion of the expenses for continued connections (follow-up) activities.
By the way, if we truly believe Vacation Bible School is the largest evangelistic activity of the year and one of the best ways to reach families, shouldn't the VBS budget be part of the church's evangelism budget instead of the kids ministry budget? Just thinking out loud here.
Obviously your budget needs to cover the expenses of the week, but don't forget about pre-event and post-event expenses. Publicity, early registration events, worker training, VBS celebration (Family Night), and continued connection plans need to be funded as well.
Your VBS budget is just one piece of the church's budget puzzle, so be sure to work closely with the pastor, finance committee, and treasurer. A budget is only as good as the dollars and good will available to back it up. You want to make sure you are operating within the guidelines of church policy and available funding.
Page 15 of LifeWay's VBS 2015 Administrative Guide for Directors is a sample budget form that will get you started.
Next Thursdays Are For Training - Scheduling Your VBS.
Question: What is the most overlooked or under budgeted expense of VBS?