Earlier this year, I was scrambling. We were hitting crunch time to do a lot of fundraising in a short amount of time to send the kids in our congregation to church camp. I had only become Children’s Pastor in November and I decided right away that camp needed a priority… but with a small church, how could we get all these kids there?
While for most churches, things like t shirts, calendars, wrapping paper, big dinners, and things of that nature are an obvious option, we did not have the luxury of a budget to go that route. I needed an idea that would be free or cheap to start up, with no overhead so that in the end all that was raised would go directly to the fund it was being raised for.
We were going to need something different than the usual. I had a few of the girls in our church over one day just to hang out and we got to talking.
- We didn’t want to do a car wash because that really isn’t cheap and in SoCal, we have water restrictions with the drought. Getting the church fined by the water department just wasn’t on my list of goals and probably wouldn’t be a good example of obedience on my part.
- We would do bake sales and things, but knew they would only go so far. The youth was already selling candy bars and sodas after services and during events. (A great fundraiser also!)
- We were already planning a CD of the youth and children singing that could be purchased by donation.
- The well known flamingo fundraiser seemed like a lot of fun, but didn’t seem like a good fit for our church.
What else could we do?
One of the girls mentioned a Jog A Thon that her school had just done. It had been successful and raised quite a bit of money for science camp. I replied, “Yeah, but I don’t think we could do much with that in this situation… Those are fun though. I always liked read a thons when I was a kid.” Then it was like the light bulb hit us both at the same time:
A Bible Read A Thon!
- Kids dig deeper in the Word of God
- Money is raised
Um, I would list cons except, well, there aren’t any!
Now, I hear you saying: Why are we paying kids to do something that they should be doing for God on their own already?
I know you’re saying it because before I decided for sure myself to approach the leadership of my church with this idea I wrestled it all out.
Then I realized… We’re not actually PAYING the KIDS. Yeah, they benefit by what the money is raised towards, but no one is actually handing them money. In fact, we are teaching them to build a habit of reading the Bible every day. We are helping them plant those seeds in their hearts. The elders and families of the congregation are encouraging the kids and youth to build a stronger relationship with the Lord!
So how did Disciple Training Academy (our children’s ministry, more on that in another post) put together our Bible Read A Thon?
Two months later, I FINALLY decided to go through with our Bible Read A Thon. I drew up forms and handed them out. Shani put information in our church bulletins that the kids would be looking for sponsors to pledge towards an amount per scripture/chapter/book and that the amount could be capped out. (For younger children, we did per Bible story from a Bible story book. (And that could be read to them by a parent or older sibling.)
Now for the tricky part… There had to be proof that they actually did the reading they said they did… There were options…
- They could write a summary of what they read on the form or on a separate piece of paper, in an email, etc.
- They could send me a video or voice recording of themselves giving a summary on FB/Instagram/text… but not SnapChat. I had to have proof in case anyone asked.
- They could tell me in person and I could take a video or voice recording.
Did it pay off?
Spiritually speaking? Of course! Bibles were being read and hearts were growing! I believe it paid off more in what was read than what was raised. You can’t go wrong with Bible reading!
Financially? Considering how small of a group we had that participated, yes. Definitely. In fact, most of our money for camp was raised in a short amount of time from this fundraiser!
What would I have changed?
The timing. Because we were in a time crunch and had so many different projects going at one time, I was too distracted to realize I ran this fundraiser during finals. Believe me, my oldest son let me know plenty of times that my timing was terrible. The kids were still reading, but had it been done during a different time they could have read a lot more.
I also would have made better forms. At the time, I was trying out a different Office software than the usual good ol’ Microsoft. I didn’t realize all the formatting issues I would have when it came to print. Simpler would have been better as well. The forms I made were printed on card stock, and I am still very happy with that decision. Those forms went through a lot by the time the fundraiser was over.
Want a freebie?
Feel free to download this template for your own church’s Bible Read A Thon. You will still have to attach cover letters to both your pledge form and reading logs to explain them, but maybe this can cut out one step for you or give you some ideas to format your own… Speaking of which, if you have any ideas to add to this, please let me know!
What are some of your favorite church fundraising ideas?
Tell me in the comments!