Many churches have “fund-raisers” during the year to augment their operating budget. They mobilize members to come together for the sake of the church and in my churches alone I have seen apple butter making, strawberry festivals, white elephant sales, weeklong food booths at the county fair, silent auctions, harvest dinners, bake sales (even bakeless bake sales!), ham & oyster dinners, tractor pulls, antique car shows, chicken & dumplings dinners, Christmas craft shows, and on and on. They raised quite a bit of money and brought church members together, but ultimately focused attention inward rather than outward.
It has been shown however, that when a church raises funds for a worthy cause beyond themselves, many more people get involved and many more dollars can be raised. One of the first times I learned this fact, was when the local community ministry learned that the provider of turkeys for their Thanksgiving baskets had to pull out at the last minute. One hundred fifty dinners had been planned and spoken for, and suddenly a week before the distribution day, no turkeys were going to be available. When this fact was shared with me, I immediately shared the news with everyone in our congregation. (This kind of thing can happen when the church has every member’s email or mobile number.) We put out an appeal, we asked for people to donate $25 to cover one turkey dinner, and within 4 days we had paid for 168 turkeys. It wasn’t just from our congregation. When others heard we were raising funds to bless people dependent upon these dinners, many people from other churches, and many who didn’t attend church anywhere, pitched in to “save the day” and make Thanksgiving be joyful for all those families. And God got a lot of glory for the ‘miracle’ they witnessed.
I know of a couple of churches which have huge fund-raising projects around Christmas time. But they give every penny away. One example is Skyline Wesleyan Church in Rancho San Diego, California. Every December for many years, they put lots of energy into a community-wide effort to raise thousands of dollars for a ministry in the community. They contacted the mayor’s office, reached out to radio stations, and recruited large seed-money donations, just to kick it off. Each year they did it, the amount raised and given away grew, until at one point I heard they had raised over a million dollars! And they didn’t keep a single penny.
If your church has never done this, now may be a good time to think about it. Back to school is a great time to raise funds for school supplies or shoes for your local schools. As we approach the holidays, are there soup kitchens or community agencies that need support? Do you have a congregation member with a connection to a mission need overseas? If you do decide to do this type of fundraising, remember to extend the invitation to give beyond the church walls. Advertise on your marquee, on your website and on social media.
This type of fund-raising can be very effective because the church is being as selfless as the people they are asking to support the project. The church provides all the volunteers and organizing, and because it is for others outside the church, the circle of people who get involved can get significantly larger. Ironically, or perhaps as a side blessing, this effort can often enlarge the reputation of the church, leading to more people attending worship and getting involved in future years.
Rev Dr Bruce Jones
Pastor , Concord UMC, Seaford, DE