General Ministry
Josh Griffin

For the most part, when I write something about youth ministry it is field-tested. I have done it…it worked. I have done it…don’t ever do it. I have done it…check out these scars. One of the ideas floating around in the old noggin that I have never done and I don’t know if it will work is … wait for it…seasons passes.

Allow me to explain: we live in a CostCo world. If I can’t buy 12 of something at a discounted rate then I don’t want any of them. I love the idea of warehouse stores so much that I bought my wedding ring at CostCo. (Longer story for another day) What if we were to sell season passes to our youth ministry with some of the same mentality? It would work something like this. We do 10-20 events throughout the year that cost different amounts.

    Winter Camp-$200
    Summer Camp-$500
    Connecting Event (Broomball)-$10
    Connecting Event (Road Rally)-$25
    Mission Trip-$100

…you get the point. If you were to plan your entire calendar for the year and figure out the cost for a family to send a student to everything you would come up with a grand total. Assuming the above 5 events were the only things my ministry was doing it would cost a student $835 to attend all of them.

What if you offered a 20% (or whatever you could afford as a ministry) discount on the cost of all of the events, and if a parent spends $668 they could go to all of the events for a 20% discounted rate?

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The reasons I think I am on to something:

Who doesn’t love a discount? More for less is a good thing.
Forces you to plan (and stick to) your events for the year. I am 6 months into a new job at a new ministry. This will probably not happen for a year or two until I am sure of what works and what doesn’t.

There is a group of students who are bought into an event before you even start to plan for it. Once you have paid for something there is a willingness to go to it. You don’t want to waste the season pass. So you can assume most of the students who bought the pass will be at any given event. If not then you can be disappointed about their absences with a little extra money in your pocket.

You have some seed money for start of the year costs. All of our deposits are due at the same time and I put our accounting offices into a panic every September. If your budget was front-loaded by some extra incoming cash, they might not break into a cold sweat every time they saw you coming.

You can allow payment plans. Take the cost of your season pass and divide it by 12 or a little less after a deposit and then families can budget it on a monthly basis.

This one is a slippery slope…You could give some discounts or other privileges with the pass. Discounts on shirts, books, or other things you sell. Maybe front of the bus (or back) seating. Like I said, this one could get a little dangerous but just a thought. As mentioned, this is in the beta phase of genius, so I would love your thoughts or why you don’t think it would work. Maybe you have already tried it and you have some evidence one way or the other. Would love to see a discussion in the comments!

Jeff Bachman is the High School Pastor at Rock Harbor Church just up the road in Irvine, CA. Feel free to leave comments or email him at jbachman@rockharbor.org and of course subscribe to his blog The Until Matters.

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  • I have thought about doing this for years – I hadn’t thought of the payment, plan, though. That would be great. I think I’ve held off only because I’m nervous people would want refunds for the events they don’t make. I’d love to hear from someone who has actually done it.

  • Kyle says:

    I had this idea for doing over my summer. We have events such as camping, water park, white water rafting, and usually a movie night. We like to host a batch of big events to draw out students for our summer. This could really bring in some kids, and would allow me less stress of planning these events (ie putting deposits down etc). I love the idea and will hopefully be able to run with it.

  • Gary says:

    Absolutely brilliant. I totally am going to take some steps towards this and push to launch this coming Fall. Thanks for sharing!

  • I actually ran a season pass program at a previous church. Pretty much as you described, though we didn’t do a payment plan for it.

    The people who bought the season pass loved it! The only other “perk” they got with the deal was priority registration (a pretty big perk for our summer programs that fill up every year). All in all, it wasn’t a very big hit, though. People weren’t willing to “prepay” for a whole year’s worth of events not knowing if their schedule would allow them to attend any of them.

    We later ran a modified version of this idea that actually worked rather well. We sold a youth ministry “Gold Card”. It was basically like a membership fee that got you the same priority registration but also gave you special discounts on each event. The Gold Card cost roughly 30% of the entire year’s events. Then when a student registered for an event, they got to register for HALF PRICE. In the end (if they attend everything) they’re saving the same 20% you targeted above.

    Let me explain using your example above (brace yourself, it’s time for some math). If a student bought the Gold Card and attended every event:

    Gold Card Cost: $250
    50% Registration Discount: $417 —easier math—> $420
    Total Cost: $670
    Instead of: $835

    The Gold Card Pros:
    – We sold way more Gold Card’s than we ever sold season passes.
    – Is was a much smaller investment on the student / family’s part
    – We still saw Gold Card members attend most events (because half price is hard to turn down)
    – Picking up $250 per teen at the beginning of the year is still a big chunk of change to help with deposits.
    – They got a cool Gold Card (everyone likes flashing a little bling).
    – Students could miss a couple events, and still end up saving money in the end.

    Hope some of that helps.

  • Jon says:

    I’ve done multiple trip discounts before when trips are close together. It worked really well. I love the gold card idea and the idea of having up front costs to everything. It gets a lot of stuff out of the way and you get signups early so you have a good idea of other costs early on.

  • Josh says:

    Fantastic comments – so glad this idea looks like it will pan out/inspire. Nice! JG

  • Luke says:

    I’ve played with this idea quite a bit, but the “Gold Card” idea is a very intriguing one. I think I’ll have to bring it up with my Parent Input Team soon. Thanks Michael!

    On a semi-relevant note, I posted this “new pricing plan” on our youth group website a few years ago for April Fool’s day. My favorite response in the comments was Joe. Feel free to tweak this for your own April Fool’s day mis-deeds on Sunday.

    Link: http://northwood.cc/nsl/?p=664

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