Okay, I’ve got a quick question for you. Being that we’re two days away from Thanksgiving, it fits well with a food theme.
One of the best ways to connect with a leader, a new volunteer or a parent is over a coffee, breakfast or lunch. At least that’s what I found. I and my staff frequently meet together over a meal or coffee and we do the same with others. This seems normal, right?
Well, a few months ago we began looking at our budget from a church leadership team perspective to see what policies we have around meals. What is appropriate? What is expected? What guidelines need to be in place to make sure that we’re wise with funds. I knew that over the past few years, we’ve worked with a set number that we’ve just increased year to year… but we never looked at the lump sum specifically and defined exactly how we’re spending it.
So, I sat with my staff and started asking the questions.
- How many lunches do you need to have with your staff a month? Coffees?
- How many lunches does your staff need to have with leaders/volunteers a month? Coffees?
- How many other lunches & coffees do you and your team need to have with others?
I complied the numbers and our Children’s Ministry number alone ballooned to $25,000. Granted, we’re leading a volunteer force of 300 people with 5-6 staff… but that seemed a little excessive.
I’ve never looked at these numbers in this way and I started asking around to see what others did or do. I’ll share some of the answers I got tomorrow… it’s good stuff, but I thought I’d throw it out to others.
- Does your church have a policy on meals?
- How much are you allowed to spend?
- How frequent are you allowed to do it?
- What is expected?
- What best practices does your church follow in regard to meals?
Thanks so much. Your involvement will help me out a ton, but I’m sure that others will be anxious to know as well.
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Apparently, my comments have been closed for who knows how long. Should be fixed now… please respond!
This is such a good question. Eating together is a great way to connect with people, but it can get expensive. Without some money budgeted for this, we probably do it less than we should. I look forward to seeing what people have to say. Kaye
Yeah, you’re right. What we were trying to do is figure out what the best amount to budget is and let each of our staff… or even key volunteers know know much they have in the budget… so if they’ve got $50 a month or $15 a month… we let them know that we expect them to use the money… meet with their volunteers and build into them over a coffee or meal. The part we’re trying to figure out right now is determining how much of a budget is appropriate.
I try to meet my staff, prospects and clients over coffee or a meal. It makes it more comfortable. In many cases, my clients decide to pick the tab. Most of the time, we take turns. This keeps the budget under control and also helps us serve one another.
I totally agree about eating with people- it is a great way to connect with them. We don’t really have any policies about this, but it is encouraged. We write our own budgets, and I include some (not a lot) money for meetings and volunteer appreciation; these are dinners or lunches with specific purposes… either for training or meeting purposes, or as a volunteer appreciation meal. I probably do about one a month (or less).
As far as just eating with people to connect and build relationships, that would fall under a different category; we get $1500 a year of “flex spending” to spend on anything from books and technology (iPhone, iPad) to meals, and while it may sound like a lot, it goes very quickly. I do not get to do meals as much as I would like.
But I do try to take at least one lunch a week and take a volunteer/leader (or several at once) out to lunch JUST to get to know them and become their friend. I also love to cook a homemade meal and take it to their home, or have my leaders to my home. There is something very personal and connecting about homemade meals and being in people’s homes or having them over.
I’m interested to see what other people have to say about this.
We budget a significant amount each year for blessing volunteers and this includes lunches/coffee. But this is also a strategic part of our church culture–being a blessing to our city and world. Whenever possible, we encourage meetings over coffee in the atrium space at one of our campuses (where coffee is “free” and is always brewing). However, when meeting over a meal is better for a volunteer’s schedule, we do meals. We try to keep the amount to $10 per person at a given meal (including a 20% tip). But we’ll also break this amount if the occasion warrants it. We tried keeping track over a couple of years to see how much we were spending on specific volunteers based on their level of involvement/commitment, but this got to be crazy. We don’t necessarily put parameters on how much we spend on a specific volunteer over a given year, but we just try to be wise. The bigger challenge we have is among staff. We occasionally have to remind staff that we should only be doing meals together (picked up on the church’s tab) if that’s the only time to meet.
Thanks for the comment. Right now our limit is $15 per person. We too value investing in our people and see it as something strategic… but the structure helps us know how to scale and plan.
Our staff is given a budget, based on their role for “hosting.” It is $300-$500 for the year. We want our ministry staff to use all of it, but want to be careful with how much budget dollars are given to meals. Other budget dollars would be used for large volunteer gatherings / appreciation events.