Is $4 gas hurting youth ministry? I think it is a legitimate question, and is the pain being felt most in the relational side of youth ministry? Personally, I know that I think twice about driving anywhere extra than to the office each day, and I bet most other youth ministers do the same. For starters most youth ministers are notoriously under paid and under budgeted, so driving say 20 miles round trip to pick up a student for a hamburger is $4 or more out of your pocket right off the top! This creates quite a dilemma for the youth worker because you know that youth ministry is all about time with students but you personally have only so much monetary resources to pull that off with. UGH! I hate the fact that I am thinking about how much it will cost me to spend time with students, it is just another unwanted barrier to ministry.
High gas prices are also making parents more hesitant in driving their students to church or students spending their money on gas to get to your events. I have found this to be true especially for churches that are "destination" churches where people drive a good distance to get to them.
Gas prices are also taking a bite out of youth budgets especially during those summer trips. We just drove close to 2000 miles roundtrip last week to Florida for Student Life Camp with four vans, I can't wait to see how much we actually spent on GAS!
So here are some hopefully helpful hints to get around this as much as possible.
1. Plan out your trips to see kids by geographical location. Go see multiple students in the same area.
2. Instead of a bunch of one-on-ones with kids maybe you meet three or four students half way between the church and their houses. This will cut down on gas for you and them.
3. Spend a day with students who live near you instead of driving into the office that day. Cut down on your days in the office (Check with your boss first).
4. Connect with kids online as much as possible or by texting (Don't overly rely on this)
5. Do more free stuff with students. If gas costs so much, take them to the park, go fishing, play ultimate frisbee, hang at Barnes and Noble, hit the beach, or just have kids over to your house. Keep it simple.
6. Plan your major programs for when students are already coming to church with their family. Maybe you move your main weekly program to Sunday mornings. Just a thought.
7. Do less events, make the ones you do do more meaningful. Cheaper events would be good also.
8. Stay closer to home for trips. There is plenty of mission work to do in your town and places you can go to camp nearby.
9. Get permission to use some of the youth budget to reimburse yourself for gas. Make sure your boss understands the value of being out with students.
10. Buy a smaller car or a hybrid because I don't think this is going away anytime soon!
Hope this helps and I would love to hear your ideas.