Help your congregation live large on a small budget
SUMMARY: Spending wisely is of great interest to everyone these days. Cutting costs, trimming expenses and pooling resources are ways to survive in this economy.
Some people aren't familiar with the concept of budgeting, couponing and tightening belts. Others have a lifetime of experience. Connecting these people can benefit everyone. Start budget or finance 101 classes that draw on the talent of your congregation and friends.
Begin small by offering several hour-long classes for consecutive weeks. Include catchy titles such as "Frugality 101" and "Feed Four for a Month on $100." Your members will appreciate the guidance, and your bigger community will see another way your church wants to help them.
Get a framework.
Decide if you want to have a single instructor or multiple speakers. If it is the latter, ensure that one person serves as the class director, overseeing arrangements for each week's speaker and finding replacements if someone cancels. Create a curriculum that outlines a name for each session followed by a brief description so instructors and prospective students know what to expect.
Connect with the community.
Look outside your congregation for speakers. Some professionals, including those in the unemployment lines, are seeking opportunities to share their knowledge, and ultimately, it is personal marketing for them.
Tap into financial experts.
Perhaps a member is a financial planner, stock-market analyst or retirement adviser. What can this person share with the budget students? The financial planner can offer the basics in setting up a budget-identifying assets, expenses and so forth. The retirement adviser can coach on general rules of investing your 401(k) in these times. An insurance expert can explain essential types of insurance, coverage limits and ideas for cutting insurance bills. Ensure speakers teach in a fair, fully informed way; this class is not a sales pitch. Make sure speakers understand the purpose.
Some members of your congregation may remember living through the Depression and other less-than-rosy economic times. These persons can be great resources to share stories and anecdotes. The teacher can intertwine their stories into the lesson of the day.
Moms (usually they're moms) can share the insider's secret for making the most of coupon clipping and bargain shopping. Online resources such as TheCouponClippers can be shared. How to clip coupons for things you really need, how to work with grocery store circulars to maximize savings, and how to get the most from a bulk store membership can be discussed.
Tell your local chamber of commerce and businesses about the program. See if any businesses will offer coupons or other special discounts to "graduates" of your class. It's a win-win situation.
Teach the future.
Consider a class or series of workshops for teens. This is the ideal time to teach budgeting, frugality and stewardship. Focus how-to sessions on contributing to the community, getting a part-time job, saving for college, applying for scholarships, obtaining an internship, and learning a skill or trade. Recent graduates make excellent speakers because they are close to the teens' age and have real-life experiences to share. More experienced adults can share what they look for when hiring employees or awarding scholarships.
Use your traditional communication avenues-bulletins, Web sites and so forth. If you open the class to people outside your congregation, create a flier or short course guide and distribute to local community centers, area churches and other public places. Reach out to local media that might print the news in an events calendar or write about your church's program.
Ask for opinions.
A final step is to ask all participants what they thought of a particular class as well as the entire program. You can set up an electronic survey free through a site such as www.surveymonkey.com.
The Coupon Clippers is a company that ships pre-cut manufacturer coupons to you. Their website allows you to select the products you use and charges around 15 percent of the coupon value. Unless you love weeding through the paper and cutting coupons yourself, this is an excellent resource.
Surveymonkey.com helps you create electronic surveys for free.