We all know that money can’t buy you happiness. It can’t buy you anything of lasting importance at all, in fact. In the worship ministry world, it seems that often times money, which buys equipment & environments, has become equated with excellent worship. There’s a subtle undercurrent out there that pulls us into believing that unless we’re aspiring to an album release or producing six campuses, we are missing the mark. Whether you’re budget restricted due to leadership decisions beyond your control, low giving, or low numbers, we feel the lack of funds acutely as worship leaders.
I have yet to serve in a church where the money flows freely into my hands to use at my discretion. I can fall slave to the idea that money would make my ministry better/easier/more efficient – probably because there’s truth in that idea. I don’t believe in touting a spiritual mantra without acknowledging reality. So let’s just get honest – it can be downright difficult to run a worship ministry without funds, and a little money can go a long way. Serving a budget can feel like a chore and threatens to steal my focus. Here are a few thoughts & lessons I’ve learned over the years on how to stay focused in spite of your financial statements.
Have a Strategy
When you’re working with a budget, you’ve got to get super clear on your priorities within the ministry. This is important no matter what level of funding you’re at. But for those of us with very small amounts to work with, it is imperative. At the beginning of your season, assess how much you’ve got to work with and plan ahead as much as possible. Make a list of all the things you want to do / equipment you’d like to acquire (whether it’s in the budget or not) and then prioritize. Sometimes this might mean choosing an awesome little retreat with your team over a new in-ear system. And that is great. Prioritize your spiritual needs above your physical needs and you’ll be golden.
Can you get secondhand equipment? Can you borrow or rent equipment? Can you make it with your own two hands? I’ve been amazed at how much we can accomplish in our ministry when we just do a little brainstorming and when we’re willing to do a little extra work. Recently we managed an amazing stage design that cost about $50 total. We could have spent $2000 easily, but we used some repurposed materials, and we pulled it off. I’ve had my percussionists play trash cans and other homemade objects because we just don’t have the money to put together a percussion section, and much of our equipment came cheaper or for free thanks to some awesome friendships we’ve built.
Maximize What You Have
Okay, so you can get creative to a point, but there will be things that are perpetually out of reach. No matter how many or what type of instruments you have, worship music is thankfully made powerful by the same elements much of the time. Dynamics apply (and are effective) with a single acoustic guitar or a full band. We can make meaningful worship moments happen, I believe, with any number & combination of instruments / equipment. Ministries working with less end up full of the most resourceful, musically sensitive people, because we have to be! Whatever & whoever you’re working with can play a part in this. Arrange your music intentionally with lots of variety to capitalize on each person/instrument you’ve got.
Don’t Stop Dreaming
This can be tough, but dreaming breeds vitality. Keep dreaming about the future and about what you would do with a million dollars. Make big, God-sized goals. That kind of energy will infuse your ministry with vision and excitement and hope! It will fuel your ingenuity and your passion. The best ministries are built on dreaming about what’s to come & casting vision for the future, while staying faithful to the present.
Exercise Some Trust
You know, it seems simplistic but it doesn’t make it less true. God has already encouraged us not to worry about tomorrow. He has assured us that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:25-33). Worship, ministry, the Church – these are all things close to the Lord’s heart. He’ll meet you in your need, and he cares! Wherever you are in this journey, believe that God has you in the palm of His hand – don’t miss growth in the midst of your striving.
Pursue The Big Picture
Being culturally relevant, achieving excellence, building an awesome ministry – these are all tools in our hands. They are not the goal. I can convince myself that God would be more honored, more blessed if I had a knock out sound system with all the bells & whistles, but two truths must win out in the end. Firstly, that God will be worshiped no matter what, because He is worthy. In Luke 19, the Pharisees want Jesus to rebuke His disciples because they were worshiping Him as the Lord. He responded, “If they were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:38-40). Worship will happen regardless. Secondly, that a heart that seeks Him, a sense of awe & reverence, and a posture of humility are the real catalysts for great worship. God says “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, NLT).
Worship on a budget can be rough! But we stand here in solidarity, brothers and sisters. Press on, get creative, let the challenge be a crucible of growth, always keeping in mind the all important truth – worship is still about the God who saved us and sanctifies us. No budget, big or small, can ever change that.