Church: River Hills UMC
District: River Valley
Submitted by: River Hills United Methodist Church
At a meeting of pastors from the Minnesota Conference, Bishop Bruce Ough asked everyone to share how they saw the Holy Spirit moving in their church.
Rev. Robert Braudt from River Hills United Methodist Church in Burnsville gave a most unusual answer: tuna fish.
The church was in the midst of a “Ton of Tuna” campaign that, through support from the congregation and community, resulted in 6,555 cans, or almost 3,000 pounds, of tuna for local food banks.
It all started in March, when the church decided to support Minnesota FoodShare month by focusing on a single item with an aggressive goal. With cost effectiveness and health in mind, they chose to raise money to provide as much tuna as possible to feed the hungry.
Halfway through the campaign, Rev. Braudt observed they had only reached one third of their goal. Even with an unexpected $1,000 donation, they were still behind where they wanted to be. That’s when the phone rang—two parishioners had a great idea.
They noticed that at the local Walgreens, there was a special where if you bought an iced coffee for $0.99, you could get a $0.99 coupon for the purchase of other items at Walgreens. Working with Walgreens management, the church was given permission to use the deal for a bulk purchase; River Hills ended up buying 1,000 individual iced coffees to sell to church members and 1,000 cans of tuna, purchased using the $0.99 coupons.
Meanwhile, the church’s local Walgreens store went a step further in helping the “Ton of Tuna” campaign: One of the associates gift wrapped a box and placed a sign on it that read, “Help River Hills Church reach their goal of a Ton of Tuna.” The store placed it near the cash registers so that shoppers could donate tuna. Three bags of tuna fish were eventually waiting to be picked up by the church.
“We started off by collecting tuna for the food banks and ended up empowering our community beyond the church,” says Rev. Braudt, who readily admits that he had periods of doubt about whether the iced coffee and tuna fish plan was going to work and hoped the church wouldn’t end up with cases upon cases of unused iced coffee. But he told himself, “If this plan wasn’t meant to be, it would not be due to my fear. I’d leave room for God to close the door in another way.”
A young adult church member assisted the church in building a “tower of tuna” to give a visual representation of the church’s progress.
The next Sunday, Rev. Braudt shared the story in worship. People laughed and smiled and even applauded when invited to buy iced coffee or donate a case of tuna. At the end of the day, the church raised 150 percent of its goal, sold over half the coffee, and had people lined up to pick up the tuna and finish building the tower of tuna. The enthusiasm over participating in bold ministry was contagious.
One member of the congregation said, “I just couldn’t say no to being a part of this ministry.”
When we do reasonable ministry, people have permission to respond only in reasonable ways. When people are called upon for bold action, they respond in bold ways!
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church