Changing the world through focused giving

July 11, 2017

By: Christa Meland

Does it seem like your church is always collecting offerings for different causes—but the causes don’t seem to relate to each other or the congregation? How do you connect people to the projects they are funding and make it easy and enticing for them to give in a variety of ways? Two Minnesota Conference churches—Embrace in Lakeland and Messiah UMC in Plymouth—have found unique ways to do just that. Check out these ideas and see if they inspire you to help your church become more focused in its giving. And feel free to use the provided information to contact someone at each church for more information about its practices. For more great ideas, check out the Missional Toolkit for Churches that was distributed at Annual Conference.

Embrace Church, Lakeland

WHAT THE CHURCH DOES: Each month, Embrace Church focuses on doing one thing as a church to show the love of Christ. One month, members were encouraged to contribute kits for people going through chemotherapy. The campus, which averages 300 in worship attendance, gathered 260 kits to give to hospitals in the area. Another month, people were encouraged to donate water bottles for Mission Haiti, flood relief survivors in southern Minnesota, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; they came up with 3,600. Other “one thing” initiatives have included collecting 8x10 picture frames to provide family portraits to those in need, giving blood at a blood drive on church grounds, writing a thank you note to someone who’s made a difference in your life, and collecting shoes to give to Soles4Souls to distribute to people in poverty.

THE REASON FOR THE PRACTICE: “Rather than trying to do 10 things with one-tenth of the power, we thought we could focus on one thing and do it really well with all the strength of the church behind it for one month,” said Rev. Austin Walker. “It engages our entire church. We try to make all of the initiatives things that everyone in the church can do. We don’t choose things that would be a massive time or financial commitment that would be out of reach for some members but keep it simple so everyone, no matter their means or resources, can participate.” Members are still encouraged to contribute to other efforts that God has laid on their hearts.

SPREADING THE IDEA: The Well liked Embrace Church’s idea so much that it adopted the practice at its Rosemount and Apple Valley campuses. Rev. Karen Bruins said it’s been a great way for members to contribute—but also “a guest-friendly way to plug in.” For example, in the winter, the church collected socks and other clothing for homeless shelters. Some visitors learned about the effort and said “I’ll come back next week and bring socks.”

CONTACT: Rev. Austin Walker
651-436-8691 /

Messiah UMC, Plymouth

WHAT THE CHURCH DOES: When its former director of children and family ministries Carol Erickson felt called to serve the people of Africa, Messiah UMC stepped up to support her vision—financially and otherwise. With the church’s help, she launched IMARA International in Kenya in 2012. IMARA is a home for those who became pregnant before the age of 16 and have nowhere else to go. The girls and young women have an opportunity to learn vocational skills and finish their education while their children are cared for in an early childhood center. Members of Messiah have provided about three-fourths of IMARA’s funds over the past five years. But members also give their prayers, time, and talents to the cause. Messiah sends work groups to Kenya twice a year to build personal relationships with those IMARA serves and walk alongside them in their journeys toward independence and higher education.

THE REASON FOR THE PRACTICE: “Our vision at Messiah is ‘building relationships,’” said Rev. Steve Richards. “So rather than giving financially to a lot of great organizations, we have focused on building relationships. Money follows relationships.” And Messiah has had a strong relationship with Erickson and the people IMARA serves since the very beginning. “Carol, IMARA board members, and members of our congregation share the stories of what is happening at IMARA and how they are noticing God at work both in the lives of the girls and their babies as well as in their own lives as they serve in Africa,” said Messiah Director of Community Engagement Kami Pohl. “It has been a unique opportunity to have a very personal connection with an international ministry.”

CONTACT: Kami Pohl, director of community engagement
763-473-6968, ext. 114 /

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

122 West Franklin Avenue, Suite 400 Minneapolis, MN 55404

(612) 870-0058