by Lynn Strother Hinkle
I read about a youth group that changed radically while the young people were gleaning—scouring harvested fields for leftover fruits and vegetables—for the poor. In the middle of that sweaty, exhausting work, they heard God call them. They felt led to do more for and with poor and disadvantaged people. Instead of doing occasional mission projects, they started doing something every month. They kept a scrapbook of their projects and had T-shirts made. The shirts said, “Doin’ the God Thang!—Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action (1 John 3:18).” They began to “walk the talk” of their faith in new ways.
Walking the Talk
Your youth group can use this series of fundraising articles for many things. You can use it to raise money for spiritual life retreats, speaker’s fees for special programs, pizza, ski trips, and travel to big youth gatherings that can change your lives. You can raise money to buy new furniture for the youth room or to pay for singers for a Christian rock concert. There are many important thinks to raise money for in a good youth ministry program. The questions is, are you doing enough for others?
The church is filled with people who think that being a Christian has to do only with believing in Jesus, avoiding certain sins, or developing a good spiritual life. But Jesus was clear that it is more than that. Talk is easy. Jesus told us to walk the talk of love.
In John 21:15-17, Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him. Each time, Peter answered the same thing: “Of course, I love you, Lord!” And every time peter said that he loved him, Jesus replied, “Then feed my sheep.” Three times. “Read my lips. Do you love me? Then do something for my hurting children.”
The message is the same for us. Kim, do you love me?
”Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Don’t I go to church every Sunday? Am I not almost always at youth meetings? Don’t I usher in church? Don’t I pray every night?
”Then feed my lambs, Kim.”
”Feed my lambs, Juan Carlos.”
”Feed my lambs, Chris.”
That is how Jesus responds to the declaration of love. What do you do with that declaration? The youth group referred to at the beginning of this article felt God leading them to make changes. Are there new ways in which God might be leading you? You will find some suggestions in the following chart to help you answer that question:
Study John 21:15-17—and the Scriptures listed below—in your youth group. Divide into small groups and discuss the message you hear. Then come back together to share each group’s insights.
Matthew 25 (in as much as you have/haven’t given to the least of these, you have/haven’t given to me)
Matthew 6:19-21 (where your treasure is, there will your heart be)
Deuteronomy 5:6 (place no other gods before me)
Matthew 19:16-22 (the rich young ruler was a good guy but could not give up his “stuff”)
James 2:14-17 (praying for the hungry without doing something for their physical needs is not good enough)
What does “doin’ the God thang” mean to you?
When we listen seriously to God’s Word, most of us feel led to do more. We want to give moore of ourselves, our talents, and our money. It’s just that there are so many other things that crowd in. And often they are good things. Do you remember the Commandment that says not to put any other gods before God? Of course, we do not worship any idols; but it may be more complicated than that. Read the questions in the following box. First ask them of yourself. Then think about them in terms of your youth group as a whole.
Are there things you put “before God”? (Be honest!)
Where does your money go? (How much goes for concerts, snacks, recreation, clothes, CDs? for meals, gasoline, expenses for yourself? for God and God’s people?)
How is your time used?
Does God get the leftovers?
After you compare what you believe God wants you do do with what you are doing, you are ready to decide where to go from here. Honestly realize that there is more “brokenness” in the world than you can fix. Do you still want to pick up Jesus’ challenge, or does that realization make you choose to leave it? Do you choose to reach out to brothers and sisters in the world who are hurting, or to ignore them and concentrate on yourself? Is it worth trying? The parable in the box below answers part of that last question for me.
Read and discuss the following with your group:
A man was walking along a beach early one morning, when he saw a young man in the distance. As he watched, he saw the young man reach down, pick something up, and heave it as far as he could out into the ocean. Again and again he did it. As the older man came closer, her saw what the boy was throwing. He was throwing a starfish! The man was curious and walked toward him. Soon he was close enough to talk, and he asked the boy what he was doing. “All these starfish washed onto the shore during high tide,” the young man replied, gesturing to hundreds of starfish strewn on the beach. “I’m throwing them back into the ocean so that they won’t die.” The older man smiled. “That’s a nice gesture, but it’s useless. Do you know how many starfish all over the world washed up last night? Probably missions! It’s nature’s way of thinning the crop. And besides, there are so many, you can’t make a difference.” The young man bent over and picked up another starfish. He hurled it as far as he could into the waves and turned to the older man. “I made a difference to that one,” he said simply.
It is the same with us. We are called to feed God’s sheep one at a time—and to work to change things at the root level—systematically, socially, economically, politically, and spiritually. We are not called to change the whole world, though the world gradually will change as more of us do our small parts. We are called to be faithful, to try, to do what we can. The choice is ours. I hope that we choose to do more and more . . . of “God’s thang.”
How to Give
For people who want to help others, there are at least two important ways to be in service. Try to build both kinds into your mission strategy.
First, plan to help people on a person-to-person basis. In “hands on” projects, you give of yourself—although you often will need to raise money for expenses too. Sometimes you might go on a big mission trip or to a work camp in another place. Most of the time, however, you will be helping people in your own congregation, school, and community. Plan hands-on projects regularly throughout the year. Decide how often you want to serve, follow your master plan, then reevaluate in a few months. An excellent boo to help you develop your mission plan is Beyond Leaf Raking: Learning to Serve, Serving to Learn, by Peter L. Benson and Eugene C. Roehlkepartain (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Second, plan to give to churches and connectional Mission funds. These are funds in which you “connect,” or combine your money with other people’s money, in order to help people who cannot be reached through hands-on projects, and to help people to help themselves. Without help from connectional mission funds, those people would “fall through the cracks.”
|There are a large number of non-denominational funds that help people around the world. Here are two of them:United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)|
333 East 38th Street
New York, NY 10016
475 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10115
Many denominations have their own connectional funds. For example, United Methodist youth have their own mission fund. Called the Youth Service Fund (YSF), teenagers from across the United States raise money that goes to help youth all over the world. Youth in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada raise money for the National Youth Project, and youth in the Assemblies of God Church raise money for Speed the Light. Check with your own church denomination or organization to see if there is a fund you can support. Or there may be agencies in your own community that you would like to support.
Talk about the two different kinds of helping. Then try The Balloon Game for a fun way to see why raising money for connectional missions should be an important part of your mission plan. Plan to raise money for connectional mission work every year—or pledge a percentage of all your fundraisers. Individual youth may want to pledge some of their money to connectional missions, too. Decide how much to give and put it in your master plan.
You raise money for what you care about. Reading this article shows that you care about a lot more than just yourself and your own friends; it shows that you care about people you do not even know. You care about “walking the talk” and “doin’ the God thang.” You care a lot.
The options are yours, and you have a world full of them. It is up to you to decide which paths to take. Work with your youth group to develop a master plan. Figure out how much money you need and how you plan to raise it. Plan well. Work hard. And have great fun raising money that ultimately “counts.”
The Balloon Game
This raucous game helps youth groups visualize why connectional mission funds are important. The game itself is actually sort of crazy, The understandings come as you set it up before you play and debrief afterward.
Step 1: Give everyone tow balloons and a permanent marking pen.
The balloons represent real-life persons in need. Take a minute to brainstorm some of the needs people have. Draw faces on the balloon people, decide where they love, give them a name, and think about what needs they might have.
Step 2: Divide the group into four smaller groups.
Each group represents a different type of youth group. Tell each group what kind of group it is. (Which group do you think should have the most and which the least?
Group 1: Fun and Fellowship Type—The youth in this group care about one another and come together primarily to have a good time and enjoy one another’s company. They do no missional work.
Group 2: Fun + Spiritual Type—These youth care about one another and have fun just like the members of Group 1 do. They also concentrate on developing their spirituality.
Group 3: Fun + Spiritual + Hand-on Mission Type—They do the same things that the members of Group 1 an Group 2 do. They also help other people in person-to-person mission projects.
Group 4: Fun + Spiritual + Hands-on Mission + Connectional Mission Type—These youth combine all of the qualities of the other three groups and add one more. They contribute to connectional mission funds. They give their money to help needy people all over the world.
Step 3: Prepare everyone for the next step.
Tell them that in a minute everyone is going to hold his or her balloon people overhead. When the signal is given, everyone should let go of the balloons. When that happens, each group will handle these falling “people” differently.
Group 1: The Fun and Fellowship Group will be oblivious to the balloons falling around them. They will keep going around the circle high-fiving one another and “having a good time.”
Group 2: The Fun + Spiritual Group will be genuinely concerned about one another and go around the circle, patting one another on the back. They, too, will do nothing about the balloons falling around them.
Group 3: The Fun + Spiritual + Hands-on Mission Group will work hard to keep the balloons in the air. But since they do only hands-on mission work, they can deal with only the balloons in their own place in the room.
Group 4: The Fun + Spiritual + Hands-on Mission + Connectional Mission Group is involved in hands-on mission work and in supporting people in many other places. They will try to keep up all the balloons in the room.
Step 4: Give the signal and see what happens.
Step 5: After a minute or two, stop the activity and debrief
Ask questions: What observations do you have? Did you think about the balloon people while you were playing the game? What about now? Where are you now in real life? Are you satisfied with where you are? What could we do to see that ore people are helped?
From Youth Fundraisers: Raising Money That Counts, by Lynn Strother Hinkle, © 1995 by Abingdon Press. This material may be reproduced for educational purposes.
Brought to you by your youth ministry colleagues at Cokesbury.