ASK: Why Aren’t Scholarships 100% Covered

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If you have been in ministry leadership long enough you have planned an event or trip that has included scholarship opportunities.  Scholarships give us a chance to help someone attend the event/trip who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

It’s become even more common place that scholarships are no longer 100% covered but instead include some sort of a contribution from the person attending.  In the case of students, we may have workship opportunities where they can contribute volunteer hours to something happening at the church in exchange for monetary credit toward their registration cost.  For adults, however, it is usually a monetary contribution.

In speaking with different churches, there is not hard fast rule on how much.  Some require a percentage of the total cost, others have a flat amount regardless of the event cost, and some even begin the scholarship conversation with the question “what can you afford towards the cost?”.

But why?  Why do we ask someone in need of scholarship to contribute?  If they had the funds, they wouldn’t need the scholarship. Is this unfair?

After speaking with literally hundreds of leaders, in all areas of ministry, there is a very common reason given for seeking contribution in order to get scholarship funds.  Those who are given full scholarships are more likely to cancel at the last minute or not even show up.   This doesn’t seem to be impacted by the type of event, cost of the event, duration of the event, location of the event, or age of the person scholarshipped.

Why is this problematic?

  • The church/ministry has already paid for that person, which means they are not out of money that could have been spent elsewhere or saved.
  •  The last minute cancellation or no show prevent the scholarship funds being passed on to someone else who wanted to attend but couldn’t afford.

Why does contributing solve the problem?

  •  Evidence points to a much more consistent commitment to attend when a person has had to contribute time, energy, or money to attend.

When you spend hours working at the church to earn scholarship credit, you are more likely to attend the event.  When you have contributed even a small portion of the money, you are more likely to attend because you don’t want to just throw your money away.

While we can debate all day long about morals, ethics, responsibility, etc… the facts are the facts.  Evidence supports that a minimal buy in will result in commitment.  This has even been seen in the business world when it comes to direct sales companies, franchises, etc.  The more someone contributes to the start up, the harder they are going to work and more committed they will be to seeing the venture becomes successful.

As we learn more about how people operate, think, and behavior we can tailor our approach, even in ministry, in a manner that works more effectively

ASK: Why should I plan ahead?

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Some women’s ministries will have a meeting and plan out their entire year, others work quarterly, and some choose to move event to event.  Why is it important to plan ahead in Women’s Ministry?

In my twenty something years of Women’s Ministry, I’ve been a part of planning Women’s Ministry events every which way under the sun.  And, yes, I do believe that planning ahead is better than winging from month to month.  Whether you choose to do that in quarters, biannually, or annually… that I leave to personal preference.

But, why?

Vision.

Proverbs 29:18 reads “A people without vision will perish.”  Vision is incredibly important to ministry leaders.  We need to know where we are going, why we are going there, how we are going to get there, and who is going to be part of that journey.

The first step in ministry vision casting is to meet with your Pastor (or overseeing deacon/elder).  We are not too far into 2020 (especially with the impact of the Covid19 virus) to not take a moment and backtrack to this step if you missed it.  In fact, man of us are throwing our 2020 plans out the window & looking to start over.  Which may even aid to your argument about planning month by month because … “you never know what will happen.”   Just follow with me for a bit. 

First, we meet with the Pastor (or overseeing deacon/elder) to ensure that we as the Women’s Ministry leader understand what the vision for the church is.  This doesn’t not change because of crisis.  The vision, is the vision.  How we may execute that vision may change, but the vision will be consistent.   Then once we understand the vision for the church, the next part of the discussion is how does the Pastor (deacon/elder) see the Women’s Ministry supporting that vision.

Then the Women’s Ministry Leader takes the answers to those questions to their team & this is where we brainstorm.  How are we going to execute that vision?  What does that tangibly look like to meet the vision of the church AND also serve the women in our church/community.  

Planning ahead for a year doesn’t mean that we have ever detail ironed out and accounted for in that initial planning meeting.  It simply means that we are setting a path or establishing direction.  We know what the end goal is for the year and we are ordering our steps, like an outline, on how we plan to get there.  Outlines afford adjustments for crisis and the unexpected.

Then as you regularly meet with your team, you will take each of those events, activities, plans and work out the finite details as needed.  

For example, our WM had a goal of adding in more Women’s Studies in our small group menu for 2020.  Now, our adjustment due to Covid19 is taking those studies online.  We didn’t change the vision, just the execution.

When you plan ahead, not only does it make it easier for you to know where you are going, how you are getting there, and who is responsible for what… but it also gives you a starting point for adjusting to crisis and the unexpected.

Instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying “now what?”, you have an actionable plan.

Your team can evaluate what you had planned for the immediate future and determine what simply needs to be cancelled, what can be modified for online, and what can be added.  However, those long term plans are a beacon of hope to your women about what is to come once the crisis has passed.

Serving in ministry, in South Florida, for over twenty years has taught me to adjust to emergency.  Hurricanes don’t really care about our ministry plans.  Having to move to online church services, temporarily, is nothing new to us.  We trust and believe that the Lord is not boxed in by church walls but can still actively reach and change the hearts of people through streamed services, pre-recorded messages, facebook lives, etc.  He is able. 

So, for us, making minor and even major adjustments to our plans for the summer is par for the course.  It is so much easier to make those adjustments when you are starting off with a skeleton outline or general direction than from a blank slate.

Have vision.  Execute the vision.  Adjust as needed.

Plan ahead for what you can, and don’t worry about making changes along the way.  Planning ahead creates a foundation to work from.