“How are we going to raise $40,000 for worthy students this year?”The amount was more than doublewhat we needed last year. Our Adventist elementary school was growing rapidly (from 16 to 40 students in two years). Our needs were growing rapidly with it. Our church of 130 had a generous history of raising about $17,000 a year outside the church budget for worthy students. We could only afford to take out $10,000 from reserves. We still needed $30,000. What could we do?
1. Form a Team:The church voted in business session to approve the Worthy Student requests “as long as we could raise the money.” A team was nominated to work on a plan for fundraising. The team included the pastor and five other individuals. What we did together as a team in our first meeting paved the way for God to do some miraculous things.
2. Pray and Trust: We went around the circle and prayed for our worthy students by name. We acknowledged that these were God’s kids and God’s school. We recognized that God owns all everything. God doesn’t need our money. He needs our hearts. But He often uses challenges with money to help get our hearts. We chose not to cut fundraising for community outreach and evangelism, like some had suggested. Instead we trusted that God has abundant resources that we know nothing about to provide for carrying out His mission both in our community and through our schools. If He wanted the kids in our schools (and we believed He did!), then He could make it work out.
3. High Intensity – Short Duration:We initiated a pledge drive to raise/pledge $30,000 in five weeks. We didn’t want to wear people out or risk losing momentum by dragging out the fundraising effort. We wanted to bring a high level of intensity for a short duration. Every Sabbath a different member from the team would go up front and appeal for the Worthy Student Pledge Drive. They shared stories and personal testimonies. They gave updates on the pledge drive progress and made sure everyone knew exactly howto give to the project.
4. Clarify the Vision: “Whyshould people give to support worthy students?” We wrestled with the question. We knew that among our congregation, many had personally experienced the benefits of Adventist education. These were the most likely to know what a “Worthy Student” is and be motivated to help. But we knew we couldn’t solely rely on these same givers as we had in the past. What about the growing number of members, new Adventists, and visitors in our church who had no background or connections with Adventist education? Why should they give?
We came to a powerful realization. Giving to worthy students doesn’t onlyhelp the student (by placing them in an environment where they can best grow spiritually, form uplifting friendships and excel academically). Giving to worthy student doesn’t onlyhelp our schools (by keeping up enrollment and tuition). When people give toworthy students, they give throughworthy students to the world. They are expressing belief in who that young person will become. The worthy student may be the next pastor, teacher, evangelist, doctor or business person who will use their influence to bring the hope and wholeness of Jesus to thousands of people over the course of their careers. We don’t give TOour worthy students, TOour schools, and TOour churches… we give THROUGHthem to the world!
God Does Miracles
When we implemented the pledge drive, we had no idea what God had planned. A pre-Adventist visiting our church for the about the third time heard the appeal to give throughworthy students to the world. She had found out about Seventh-day Adventists from our recent AMEN Free Health Clinic. She had no prior knowledge of Adventist education and was very involved in supporting the public school system in our community. The Holy Spirit moved her to contribute $1,000! Her husband came up to me during potluck overjoyed. He told me that she had only become a Christian within the past couple years. He had never seen her open to giving anything to the church before. Now God had opened her heart to give! That big step of faith in her spiritual journey led to other steps of faith. She and her husband were baptized into our church family a couple months later.
God continued moving people to make pledges. We were coming to the end of our five week period and still needed a little over $4,000. I got a phone call from a member of our sister Seventh-day Adventist Church in the neighboring town. They had heard we were trying to raise a large amount this year for worthy students and wanted to give $4,500. On the closing Sabbath when I announced that the Bremerton Seventh-day Adventist Church had contributed $4,500 to bring us to our goal, the congregation responded with enthusiastic applause. At various points in the past, there had been sentiments of rivalry between the two churches. Now there was extravagant grace, overwhelming gratitude and partnership in mission.
We knew God had the resources, but we could have never predicted that He would provide in this way. The challenge of raising money for worthy students will be back again next year. We will need to continue to come together, brainstorm and pray about creative solutions to resolve it. Through our experience this year, God has grown our faith. What all we need far more than money and good ideas is trust that “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Dustin Serns is pastor of the Port Orchard church in Washington