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Fun-Raising; Save It

Sue Kahawaii

Let's face it, if you've been in children's ministry for any amount of time, you know one of the issues that surfaces repeatedly is the need for money. Whether it's for equipment, operational costs, special programs, or events, money can be the stumbling block that keeps your ministry from moving forward, or it can be the impetus for fresh vision and change.

Yet, because of fund-raisers galore with kids' school and sports teams and activities, how can you do a fund-raiser that doesn't feel like another burden to kids and parents? Consider combining fund-raising with fun.

Community Garage Sales

This is a lot easier than having a rummage sale at the church. Find several host locations by asking volunteers to donate their front lawn or garage for a day. Check to see whether your town or city requires garage sale permits in advance. Solicit donations from families in the church, and have people deliver the items directly to the host sites the night before the day of the sale.

Print fliers that list all the locations, and have these available at each garage sale. People who stop by the first garage sale will now have the addresses and directions to the other ones. This is also a chance for you to have fliers for your children's ministry or church to hand out to those stopping by.

At the end of the day, simply pack up what's left and drop it off at the Goodwill, or arrange to have a nonprofit organization pick it up. To add to your profit, consider selling soft drinks and prepackaged snacks.

Wheel-A-Thon

Hosting a Wheel-A-Thon is a fairly easy way to raise money and have fun, too.

nib Check out Night in Bethlehem,
a great special event for families
this Christmas season!

Secure a location in a park, or just turn your church parking lot into an event field and let the rolling begin. Bikes, in-line skates, skateboards, scooters, even remote control cars are all allowed at this family fun activity. We ask for a donation entry fee of $20. We also allow free entry to anyone who can't afford to pay.

Divide your location into separate areas, set up a registration area, and you're ready. Have races, prizes, and awards throughout the three-hour event. We've asked area stores to donate prizes and snacks.

Pop Bottle Sunday

Once a year, our church has a special service called Liberty Offering Sunday. Our entire church participates above and beyond tithing by bringing a sacrificial offering. To help kids get involved, I handed out 2-liter soft drink bottles to all the kids six weeks in advance of this special service. A major supplier donated and delivered the soft drinks at cost. I attached a poem to the front of each bottle, which explained what the project was all about.

Kids took the bottles home, enjoyed the contents, and then washed out the bottles to turn them into banks. Then they collected pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars to fill up the banks. A pop bottle full of pennies alone totals approximately $30. We also gave kids ideas every week about ways they could earn money to fill up their banks.

On Liberty Offering Sunday we celebrated with everyone by having a pizza party and ice cream. We also gave prizes for bottle decoration categories to make the day even more fun. On average, each bottle returned to us had about $35 in change. Our first year we did the fund-raiser, the kids raised a whopping $4,000 in a single day. Last year, they topped $12,000!

Fall Festival

Every year, we host a Halloween alternative. Not only is this popular with our church families, but it has also become a huge community outreach.

The first few years we had to host fund-raisers to pay for the event because we offered it for free. Then we decided to charge $1 admission for everyone coming in the doors, including the adults. That simple change allowed us to expand to add limousine rides, air bouncers, and more to make the event bigger and better. We also sold carnival bracelets that allowed kids unlimited play at all the events and games. Concession sales, photographs, and special event items are other ways you can raise funds at an event.

To our surprise, parents were more than happy to contribute the dollar. We offer free admission to anyone who can't afford to pay and discounts for large families; grateful parents are often willing to volunteer in exchange for admission. The key is having a quality event that's well worth the cost, and offering free admission to keep from eliminating anyone from being able to attend.

Slumber Not Parties

A couple times a year, we host 12-hour overnight parties for elementary-age kids. Don't toss out this idea as being too hard! Outside of missing a couple hours sleep, it's one of the easiest fund-raisers we do.

The party begins at 8 p.m., and ends at 8 a.m. We charge $20 per child, and that includes pizza, ice cream, snacks, games, and all activities. We spend around $5 per child on food. That leaves a profit of $15, so at $1.55 an hour, that's cheap baby-sitting!

For the first hour and a half, we have open game time. Then the pizza arrives, and we begin a more structured large-group activity such as Bingo. Finally, around 11 p.m., we have a big-screen movie. By the time the movie ends, most of the kids are ready to sleep. Boys and girls sleep in separate classrooms. However, after the movie, we don't tell them it's time to go to sleep, we just escort them to the rooms, dim the lights, put on a movie playing softly, and let nature take its course.

The key to this event's success is to have plenty of adult security and monitors. We allow kids to come free if their parent will chaperone the event. We always have more than enough volunteers this way. (We do make sure that all volunteers have been screened in advance. We also go over the rules and restrictions during their training time before the kids arrive.) You can assign volunteers to sleeping shifts, so you always have a team that's awake and alert for kids who might wake up in the night.

Kids love the chance to hang out in the more casual setting, and it gives them a chance to form new friendships. Teachers and parents also have a chance to get to know kids and each other better. Some of the parents who chaperone our event end up having so much fun that they join our teaching team afterward.

Save It

Money-saving ideas don't require a line of credit. Here are 10 of my favorite ideas.

  1. Color it. Paint covers many things and brings new life to old pieces. Paint for plastics provides instant facelifts at a fraction of the cost. Remember to work in a well-ventilated area when spray painting.
  2. Recycle it. Contact elementary schools to let them know you're willing to take any decorations teachers discard. The end of the school year is a great time to get freebies.
  3. Update it. Paint the walls to update any room. See if your church or another group will have a work day to paint. You can save on paint by checking the bargain bin for gallons that weren't the right tint for the original customer.
  4. Stock it. Set up an organized supply area with items stored in boxes or buckets that are clearly marked. Turn pieces of construction paper into labels. Write what's in the container and secure the label with tape. If you don't have a storeroom, use a shelving unit or a cabinet.
  5. Post it. Ask for free promotional posters at a Christian bookstore to add color to plain walls. Hang some at children's eye level, but avoid having sharp pins where little ones can reach them.
  6. Hang it. Brighten up bulletin boards with leftover tissue paper, wrapping paper, fabric, or disposable tablecloths. Add details by using items such as kids' scuba gear, Christmas garlands, and T-shirts. Keep in mind how long you expect the bulletin board to last and choose materials that'll last that long.
  7. Inflate it. Inflatable beach toys store easily and add excitement to a room or an outdoor activity. We keep beach balls around because they're safer to use than traditional playground balls, yet they're still fun.
  8. Share it. Seek group discounts for bigger activities and combine with other churches. During the summer, see about reserving a local pool or putt-putt golf course. In the winter, plan a game day at an area gymnasium. You can also see if some area attractions have free admission days.
  9. Repurpose it. Turn household items into playthings. Use a bed sheet, tablecloth, or large blanket to place small stuffed animals on. Then have the kids bounce the sheet without the items falling off. Or use the bed sheet, tablecloth, or large blanket to create a puppet theater by draping it over two chairs. Give the kids paper lunch bags to create puppets to retell a Bible story.
  10. Beg for it. Keep an ongoing list of recyclable items you can use in crafts for your children's ministry. Staples are frozen juice lids, coffee cans, paper towel roll tubes, and paper printed on one side. There are tons of crafts you can create with these items for free.

Denni Palmer
Elm Springs, Arkansas

Sue Kahawaii is a children's minister in Tacoma, Washington. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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