The T-shirts said, “Will Starve for Food.” Every member of the youth group wore one during their World Vision 30-Hour Famine lock-in. We were fasting together, 30 hours with nothing but juice, to heighten our understanding of world hunger and deepen our commitment to God’s justice.
We hit on a fundraising idea that empowered our kids to raise over $1,100 for World Vision. We held a giant yard sale on the church property, with one major departure from the norm: there were no prices. “Pay what you like,” our signs proclaimed. “All proceeds reduce world hunger.”
Church members brought us their stuff, glad for the opportunity to clean out a closet or garage. (Some of them had just completed a Lenten study about de-cluttering their lives.) Early Saturday morning we took it all outside and placed items in categories: kitchen, toys, clothing, decorative, electronics, and more.
We got various reactions to our “no price” policy. In a yard sale debriefing, I asked our kids to categorize the possibilities:
1. A few people—very few—“cheated” (the youth group’s word). They made off with lots of good stuff and drove away laughing at our naiveté.
2. Lots of people got a much-needed bargain on things they needed for their family. They took basic necessities like children’s clothing and paid very little. Our no-price yard sale was an unexpected gift to our neighbors in need.
3. A number of people tried hard to be fair—they counted up what they took and gave us the exact amount they thought their purchase was worth.
4. A few people gave generously to our cause from their wealth. A church member, for example, took only a couple of items from the sale and wrote World Vision a check for fifty dollars.
5. Many more people found something they needed, worth perhaps two or three dollars in the yard sale economy, and then refused change from a five dollar bill. These were not wealthy people; these were our needy and generous neighbors, sharing what they could.
Our no-price yard sale has become a kind of parable for our youth group. How do we respond to God’s gift of grace? And how do our financial decisions reflect the reality of that grace?
The yard sale moment all our kids remember involves the man who was thrilled to find a winter coat that fit him perfectly. He had been out of work for several years and without a coat for several winters. We would have let him walk away with the coat for nothing, but he insisted on paying for it. He took a ten dollar bill from his wallet and gave it to us purposefully. “God has always provided for me,” he said to the kids around the table. “God will never let me down.”
I will fast for 30 hours with my youth group every year for opportunities like that.
This stewardship story is from the More Than Enough Companion Resource. The More Than Enough theme is based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 and invites people to be blessed as they bless others. As God's people invest their gifts and talents on behalf of God's kingdom, they experience God providing more than enough–more than enough to meet their needs, needs in the local community, and the needs of congregational ministry. Use the Giving: Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation magazine volume 12 and the More Than Enough Starter Kit and Companion Resource to create a congregational stewardship emphasis using the More Than Enough theme.
The Ecumenical Stewardship Center offers congregational stewardship resources featuring 18 different, timeless biblical themes. Peruse them all and place an order in the ESC web store.