In 2009, the Rev. Kermit Culver challenged his congregation to buy fewer Christmas presents. "We all spend way too much money for Christmas," he said.
Culver asked members of Legacy United Methodist Church in Bismarck, N.D., to set aside half of what they would spend on Christmas and give it to Ruth Meiers Hospitality House, a local community agency that feeds, clothes and houses those in need. Inspiring Culver was the week he spent with the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, where the "Half a Christmas" ministry began.
The congregation, which averages about 250 in worship, did not initially embrace the idea as passionately as Culver did – and the church was in the middle of a capital campaign. Still their pastor asked them to sacrifice extra clothes, gift cards and other surprises they looked forward to during Christmas to reach an ambitious goal of $25,000.
The Christmas offering netted $27,000.
In 2010, Legacy raised the goal to $28,000. Members again surpassed it by giving $30,000. The 2013 goal was $35,000; and the congregation, visitors and a nearby United Methodist church contributed $37,000.
Legacy's missional focus is local and global. The church has built three churches in Bolivia and Thailand. A team of 12 men and women from Legacy helps Ruth Meiers House by cooking and serving meals and assisting with other tasks.
Stevie, a shelter resident, started attending Legacy and now is a member of the church.
The goal for this year's "Half a Christmas" is $45,000.
"We have made a choice to be generous," Culver said "It's a good thing."
AT A GLANCE Legacy United Methodist Church | 4600 Durango Drive, Bismarck, ND 58503 | 701-223-4401 | [email protected] | www.legacyumc.org | Pastor: Rev. Kermit L. Culver | Average Attendance: 254 | Dakotas Conference
"It Worked for Us" is written by Christine Kumar, freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference. Send story ideas to [email protected].