NLN3: Steve Schneeberger Shares about Nonprofit Life Stages

STEVE SIn this episode, Steve Schneeberger with the Youth Ministry Institute shares about – the first 10 years.

Here are some highlights from the podcast.  Listen to the full podcast below.


Building something from nothing was amazing and very scary. We didn’t have anything in place when we started. It was just an idea. I had observed the lack of support and education for youth ministers. There weren’t systems in place to help them be successful. We profiled other organizations in the United States and didn’t find anybody doing what we had proposed to do.

The first strategy for us was to talk to other people who had run organizations. Then we looked for a few people who could come alongside us help things get started. We approached potential board members with the idea that they would give us their time and give $3,000 a piece annually to our start-up. Amazingly a number of people came forward. I think we had originally between 8 and 11 board members. Some of those stuck. Later on in that birthing process we went through the steps of establishing our mission, an official mission statement and then a visioning statement which took a lot longer than I thought it would. Those became pretty pivotal and directed us – and still direct us today.


A friend, one of the first people I met with, came up with the idea that we just needed 20 people to give $3,000 each. That didn’t happen, but we got a number of people who were willing to give. We also received funding from the United Methodist Church Florida Conference. They had an organization that was only in operation for three years and it happened to be at the time that we were looking to do this. We submitted a proposal to them and they funded us in the first two years, a total of $70,000. And then they weren’t giving any money out anymore. I really think this was God’s providence also we just really wandered into that one and didn’t even know it existed when we started. I’m not sure if we could have survived without that boost and their initial years of the organization.


The first year we set the price point fairly low because we were establishing a price point in a market that didn’t exist. We then realized all these churches said yes too easily. So maybe the price point wasn’t high enough. When we looked at our bottom line budget, we knew it wasn’t a sustainable model. That’s why we upped it the second year. Ironically, we had twice as many churches sign on the second year and there wasn’t any pushback. We also had in our back pocket this money that the Methodist Church had given us – half of it was with the expectation we would help churches that were financially strapped or were small member churches.

What we’ve realized over ten years doing this is a church will find the money if they value youth ministry, whether they can ‘afford’ it. We have had many churches who have found individual donors who want to give above and beyond what they give to the church to make this thing happen to enhance their youth ministry. The churches that don’t value youth ministry, they’re not going to pay for what we offer and they’re probably going to hire a youth minister at a minimum salary or ask him to do more work than they pay him to do.


At about the five year mark or four year mark people were beginning to fall away. Our beginning board members, the venture capitalists, were ready to move on to something new. Then we began to reorganize how we invited people to be part of the board. We set term limits so we didn’t burn anybody out. We took out the $3,000 fee so we could ask people that didn’t have that kind of capacity. We asked ministers to be on our board, who don’t usually have that kind of flexibility to give those large amounts annually to another organization other than their church.

And then we began to think, what do we need these board members to do? We identified what we needed to grow and asked board members to fill specific roles to help us get there. We asked accountants because we wanted them to pay attention to some particular accounting needs, we asked a lawyer who was involved with trademarks when we decided that we wanted to copyright some stuff and take our mark and make it legal… That’s the new process we’ve been in over the past five or six years.


We’re at the 10 year mark now. We feel like know who we are and our mission’s pretty clear. Now we just need to figure out who we want to be for the next ten years. So in the fall we’re entering into a strategic planning process. We’re involving our past and present board members, our donors, past students, current students and all of our employees and beginning to think about what we do next.

We’ve begun to establish a national presence with the addition of our Midwest group and are in the midst of changing our organizational structure. A year from now we’ll have a different kind of national board that will include people from all over the country. We’re thinking that our regional areas, the Midwest and Florida, will have managing boards. So we’ll be defining that and trying to figure that out as we grow into young adulthood also.

From a national presence standpoint, I want us to figure out how we influence the conversation. Not only around youth ministry but more importantly how the local church responds to our changing culture. I think that’s pretty critical, and I think often times youth ministry is overlooked in that conversation, and I think it should be more of a highlighted area because the youth in our churches now are going to be the adults in our churches tomorrow. If we don’t understand them well and what really connects for them then we’re at a loss as a church. I don’t know how we can do it, but in some way I think we can influence that conversation in a way that’s pretty positive for the local church and in making the local church more effective.

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