Written by Rev. Rachael Pryor, KO Conference 3 Great Loves Coordinator
You can almost feel the groan in the room when people suggest another church fundraiser. So much of the time, it turns into a huge amount of work for a relatively small payout. But Sabrina Richards and her business partner Janet Porter of United Parish in Lenora, Kansas have turned church fundraising into child’s play — literally!
United Parish is a very small church in a very small town of only about 300 residents. The church council (of which Richards is the current president) is small, and many of the more senior members are not always able to give the time and labor they used to provide. But that hasn’t stopped this congregation from reaching out, forging community partnerships, and sharing God’s love with neighbors all over Central Kansas.
United Parish already has a history of fundraising through community concerts. Most years there are at least one or two concerts offered simply as a way to gather the community and support a good cause. The church often pays a musician or group to perform, then donates all proceeds to something like flood recovery or relief support for firefighters. One year, they raised the gas money to transport all of the library books from a recently-closed school down to Moore, Oklahoma after a tornado hit. A potluck meal usually goes with the concert, including a main dish provided by the church.
This past Sunday, a concert was held featuring Decatur, Illinois musician Tracy Osborne, who just happens to be the father of a church member. He offered to perform for free, so that they church could raise funds for hurricane disaster recovery. About 50 people in attendance raised more than $500!
Dinner & concert fundraisers do help with money and getting people to know about the church. But for Richards, the more important goal is strengthening relationships in the community. And their latest fundraising venture has been a surprising way to help build those relationships, too! It started out as a simple idea: organize a craft night to make things to sell at fairs. Along with the crafts, they learned about a company that creates pasta in all kinds of fun shapes and colors, so they decided to try selling it at local and regional events.
No one expected this simple project to turn into a major source of income for the church! But when the pasta sales “went beyond our wildest dreams,” Sabrina and Janet didn’t stop there. They started selling a pasta sauce to go along with the noodles, based on a recipe from Janet’s mother. On a whim, they also started making giant, colorful bubble wands and “secret recipe” bubble solution. When they take their show on the road, Janet’s husband Dick often comes along and sets up the canopy for outdoor shows. There are also several other members who come to help serve pasta samples, set up and help make bubble solution or salad sauce mix. The result has turned into an all-volunteer company, GIG (for “God is Good”), that has raised about $3,000 in the past 3 years for United Parish.
As she reflects on this unusual path they’ve taken, Richards says she hopes people who encounter them will imagine that “maybe church isn’t so stuffy after all” if there are fun people who make giant bubble wands and sell silly pasta shapes. Already, they’ve run into neighbors they didn’t even know, at craft fairs in other towns and counties, who’ve said, “You’re from Lenora?! Me, too!” It’s opened up opportunities to meet neighbors who might be hesitant to just walk into the church on a Sunday morning.
Keeping the church open and supporting a pastor can be a major challenge for our tiniest rural churches. United Parish has shown that creativity can lead to unexpected ways to provide funding. But perhaps even more important, is the way they’ve grown in having fun together while connecting with and taking care of neighbors near and far. #3GreatLoves #loveofneighbor #GodisGood