Six JOY-filled Tips for Pastor’s Wives living on a shoe-string budget

This post is brought to you by, Denna Busenitz and Amber Fox 

(Denna Busenitz) My husband and I began support raising back in 2001 as we shared with others the Lord’s call to serve as church-planters in rural Nebraska, first under the invaluable mentorship of Pastor Mark and Cindy Danielson, then onto new locations as the Lord led. We’ve been living on a ministry salary for 17 years, now as a family of seven. My husband is apt to say, ‘You can never outgive God.’

  • Live within similar means as the townspeople around you and trust God for the rest.


The church-planting and strengthening ministry we are with (Rural Home Missionary Association or RHMA) asks that we raise support comparable to a school teacher’s salary in the same location as our ministry with the same years of education and experience. Our first two years in ministry, we lived in a town of 550 with an average of 20 students per PreK-12th grades. We were in the process of purchasing a small house as we wanted to put down roots. We shopped local and stocked up on supplies twice a month when we traveled to a larger town. I joined the food Co-op that many of the town’s ladies were involved in and bought dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, oats, flour, and sugar in large quantities. Both of us hate being in debt so we worked hard to pay off our house. We lived ministry check to ministry check and my husband took jobs on Ranches as time allowed. I taught music lessons in our home. We invited people into our home often for meals. One Sunday, we felt the Lord asking us to invite a young ranching couple new to church over for lunch although we felt  like we didn’t have much to offer. They told us later, the Lord moved in their hearts as they were leaving our home to write us a check, which they later sent. It was what we needed for that month’s house payment!


  • Practice hospitality and tithing


We later moved 80 miles away and into a 100% ranching community where the Lord provided a house on a ranch. My husband worked off our rent every month for five years. The only teacher in that area was the one-room country schoolhouse teacher that lived in the trailer across the fence from us. I got to know her quite well as we shared a burn barrel. We would take turns burning our trash (except on high wind days) and chat about her days teaching multiple grades and my days with little kids at home. It was a blessing to have her faithfully involved in the church plant, even hosting ladies’ Bible studies in her trailer. She blessed us with some date-nights while she watched our kids. It was sometime during these years that we received a call that our ministry account had less than $100. We prayed for the Lord’s provision. Some years later, I was reading through our Guest Book and discovered that during our hardest year financially, we hosted overnight and fed our greatest number of guests. We desired to keep tithing through this rough patch and God was faithful to allow us to do that. It made us even more aware of the sacrifices that others make to give toward our monthly ministry salary!


  • Practice Creative Saving techniques- kids too!


Our third and current location is within a school district of 10-15 kids per PreK-12th grades. We have a similar salary to a teacher with 15+ years experience. Our ministry supporters and church family combine efforts for our monthly check; we are grateful! Our church family has always blessed us with frozen meat, hand-me-down clothes for our five kids (no thrift stores around and garage sales are rare), Christmas gifts, our own gas-tank with some fuel money (we travel a lot for local ministry) and a monthly stipend. I still purchase all our dry food staples from a food Co-op and support our local grocery store buying chicken, vegetables, fruit, and dairy products. We have a garden each summer, eggs from our own chickens, and one milking goat. Our kids are involved in 4H and put money into their savings accounts each year after the livestock sale. Our four girls saved their pennies for several years and just recently purchased a trampoline. They also saved up to purchase a kid saddle so they can take turns riding horses given to our family as gifts.

BIRTHDAY GIFTS: Four out of five of our kids were born in the same month. We have to be creative leading up to ‘birthday month’ so we can spend equally on each kid. We usually ask if they want two small gifts or one large one.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS: I love using the ‘Three gifts of the Wise Men’ ideas for our kids.                                                         Gold (something they really want); Myrrh (something they need); Frankincense (something sweet-smelling). To these gifts, we add stocking stuffers including a new devotional for each of the older ones.

Three In-Home/In-Car Date Ideas:                                                                                                                                         

  1. Pour your favorite juice (ours is pomegranate-grape) into your best glasses; sip while watching a movie or playing a board game. Sunday nights after the kids are in bed work well for us.
  2. Read a book together. We do this on ‘travel-dates’ as everything is a drive where we live; we’ve read many books this way including the Tolkien series, missionary biographies, and political thrillers by Joel Rosenberg.
  3. Walk/Hike Outside: One of our favorite ways to DESTRESS and spend quality time together is to take a walk. We can talk, pray out loud, or just quietly enjoy God’s Creation together. Pack a picnic lunch to extend the date!

(AMBER FOX) As a ministry wife and a mom of seven kiddos, as my husband says, “There’s never “extra” money! I always love to ask him what we would do if we had “extra.” That’s when he smiles and gives me that sweet answer! However, he also reminds me that math with God never makes sense. We have had to be very creative with our finances as a ministry family and yet, we have never felt like we’ve lacked for anything. In fact, just recently, as our 17 year old learns more about money and finances, he mentioned that he has never felt like we’ve been tight. (That makes my mama heart feel good!)

Here are our best budget tips for living on a ministry income:


  • Never let money stop you from serving others.


When my husband was in seminary, a wise, (now retired) pastor’s wife told me never to feel inhibited by what I could serve people to eat and that my menu shouldn’t stop us from having people into our home. She encouraged me to serve popcorn and juice if that was all we could afford and reminded me that fellowship is far more important than food. How wise! There have been many times in the last 14 years of ministry that had I not heeded her advice, we would have gone months without serving anyone in our home.


  • If you have kids, set up a clothes storage system.


I started with our very first baby’s clothes and have stored outfits ever since. I have taken the time to carefully label everything and store the clothes neatly in totes, keeping only the best. That way, when it’s time to switch over clothes for a season, or because our kids have grown, it’s like shopping in my own second hand store right at my home. There have been many times that our “second hand store” has saved us from spending money we didn’t have. I’ve wondered how I would clothe our kids as their needs have arisen, and thankfully, my tote storage system has been a blessing.


  • Live within your means.


It seems simple enough, but I am including this one because as ministry families it’s tempting to feel like we are missing out. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has more than we do and if we’re not careful, discontentment can easily take root in our hearts, causing us to spend money we don’t have. Stay within your means and avoid credit at all costs (no pun intended!) Save up for future purchases as long as it is possible and avoid the comparison trap (which really starts with an attitude of gratitude.) Don’t spend more than you make and save as much as you can.

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About Denna Busenitz

Denna and her husband, Kurt, have five children (3 teens and 2 tweens) and have been church planters with RHMA in the Sandhills Region of Nebraska nearly 20 years. Kurt pastors Sandhills Church of Hope- ‘one church with two locations’ in small-town and rural NE. Denna has a music degree from Moody Bible Institute and helps coordinate music at church. Her weeks are filled with Moms in Prayer groups, kids club/youth ministries and organizing the family calendar. She serves on her local grocery store board and substitutes at school.

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