For most of my ministry, I've served small churches where everything I did was shoestring budget sized. If I couldn't order VBS materials with all the cute CDs and hand puppets, I wrote the materials and used songs from books I found in the dusty church libraries or thrift stores.
If I couldn't order church school materials from the denomination because our budget could barely sustain my salary, I taught church school teachers how to adapt books on theology, the Bible and contemporary issues so that one book served an entire class.
I've furnished church nurseries to be safe and bright places for infants and toddlers from thrift and charity stores. I created worship materials to integrate children into worship so they would enjoy the service and feel included.
I know how to do ministry on a dust bunny budget.
I've gotten so proficient at doing everything with next-to-nothing that when my current congregation was dumb founded at my desire to have a baptismal font, I bought an Italian marble font at an estate sale. I worked the sale as a helper and security person so the antique dealers gave me a big discount. We haven't moved it to the church so it sits in my side yard as a bird bath. (Top that one, neighbors!)
I expect to do ministry without spending much money.
As we try to finish the repairs to our building, I'm learning to ask for money. We've put in a grant with the Big Cheeses and I am applying for other money. We need more than $100k to make our building handicap accessible, safer with new wiring and plumbing, more comfortable with fresh paint, ceiling fans and lowering our really high ceiling so we can insulate the attic.
I love the old building. It suits us for worship and activities.
We struggle to find the money to fix the building. Then we will struggle to find materials and craftspeople to do the repairs. Everything is much more expensive than before the hurricane.
I'm different since the hurricane, too. I'm asking myself big questions about ministry. Have I accomplished what I hoped for in all these years of dust bunny ministry? Are my gifts being used appropriately where I am? Do I have the words to enthuse people much younger than I am who sit and listen to me each week? Have I been responsible to my family by never earning much and having mostly no pension at this stage in my life?
Ministry is more than money. Ministry is trying one's creative best to be where God can use us to do what God wants for the world. Ministry is the willingness to serve and love people, who, if you didn't love them, you'd run from screaming. Ministry is hearing the deep song of something so beautiful that all you can do is follow hoping to catch the complete lyric.
And, now it's time to go sit with Mr. C.