As we plan a new calendar year, one of our biggest concerns and thus biggest debates tends to be of a budgetary nature. Our most recent committee meeting exemplified this as we discussed whether or not we should be attending this year’s Quake. With a $135 early registration fee, without food or transportation costs included, a junior high weekend retreat has suddenly become very expensive. Some advisors felt that this was a perfectly reasonable cost, while others scoffed at the price.
This discussion only served to highlight the very different economic situations found in our congregation, and in our youth groups. While some parents may very well have no problem spending $135 to send their middle schooler away for the weekend, other parents can barely afford to send their children to school with lunch. $135 may very well be their grocery money or electric bill. For families with more than one child in the program, which is actually quite common, the financial dilemma is compounded.
While the most obvious solution seems to be fundraising, and a great resource can be found here, the work and energy needed for effective fundraising endeavors can quickly burn out youth advisors, youth and congregation members. Offering scholarships can also help ease the burden. However, when more than half of your youth participants are in need of scholarship money (an actual occurrence) then even scholarship and fundraising can fail you. Sometimes there are parents who do not wish to make their struggles known and the thought of having to ask for help is far more daunting than simply telling their child they cannot attend an event.
And so the question remains, should we only plan events that all youth can afford to go to? Or should we plan a variety of events, knowing that some youth will be unavoidably shut out of them?