The Equipper Newsletter
September 1, 2008
Churches Equipping Saints for Service

A Modern Parable of the Talents
 by Karen Kogler

"They were in shock. They were overwhelmed. Everyone had a $50 bill in their hand and had to decide what to do with it."

Gladys Jennings is describing what happened at the end of the worship service on April 14, 2008, at St. John's Presbyterian Church in the small town of Camas, Washington. Earlier in the service, Pastor Ken Campbell had preached on Jesus' parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), in which a man praised two servants for investing money entrusted to them, and condemned the one servant who hid it instead of putting it to work. In the same service, the congregation saw a slide presentation on Good Shepherd Hospital at the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. Started in 1954 by Presbyterian medical missionaries, this hospital is the only one with running water and electricity in an area the size of the state of Georgia.

The people were likely expecting a request for donations to this worthy cause. Instead and to their surprise, they were each given a red envelope. Inside each envelope was a $50 bill. Pastor Campbell challenged each person to be like the good servants in the parable, to put that $50 to work. On June 8, dubbed Harvest Sunday, they were to return the $50 in the red envelope and bring the increase in another envelope as an offering for the hospital.

As the surprised people left that day, Gladys and members of the Mission Commission, which she chairs and which had planned the day, were excited but concerned. They took $2500 from their budget and borrowed $4000 in interest-free loans from a few members to fill the 130 red envelopes. A good percentage of the church's members were elderly. Would people participate? Would they be able to help the hospital? Would they even get their starter money back?

"It was astounding," Gladys now reports. "They rose to the challenge. We raised more than anyone thought we could."

"It created a lot of interest," said Linnea Glennie, a church member. "Camas is a small town. Everyone heard about it." As Linnea contemplated the $50 she'd been given, she decided to make and sell cookies, particularly her special 6-inch Crispies. Her fellow members tried a variety of things. "One man, Lynn, filled up his car with gas and chauffeured his neighbors on their errands. Their donations went to the fund. My friend Helen took orders for her famous rhubarb pies. Ellie told me she opened her freezer as she was wondering what to do and decided to make jams and jellies from the fruit in the freezer."

Click here for the rest of the story, including the birth of the idea, more creativity and fun, and the results.

Questions to Talk About
Print and share the above story. These questions might spark conversation and application. (To print the story, follow the link to the full version. Then use the print function of your browser.)
  1. The people were surprised at receiving $50. It was an unexpected, unearned gift. What 'unexpected, unearned gifts' do we receive from God?
  2. We talk about "our" money, "our" time, and "our" talents and abilities. If, instead, we think of them all as gifts entrusted to us by our master, to be put to work, how does that affect what we do with them?
  3. When we put our talents to work for God's purposes in our daily lives, what is the 'increase' and who receives it?
  4. Why do you think this project was so much fun, and created so much involvement?
  5. What gifts has God put in your hands today? What are you going to do with them?
Volunteers at Work
At the Democratic National Convention, a church finds an opportunity to serve. See "Baptists Aid First Responders." Has your church considered major public events in your community as an opportunity to serve?
The Beijing Olympics closing ceremonies included thanks to the army of volunteers who worked during the event. Just before the Olympics began, Susan Ellis commented on the oddity of a totalitarian government recruiting volunteers. Readers added interesting reactions during the Olympics. Is there a comparable tension as the church both "tells" its volunteers what to do, and also "lets" the volunteers do what the Spirit leads them to do?
Interested in networking?
What opportunities do you have to connect with other people interested in improving church volunteerism health? Does your church learn from and help other churches? I'd be interested in hearing what you do, or would like to do, to network. I'd also like to create opportunities for equipping people to network online. To respond, or for more info, reply to this newsletter or see more info here.
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The Equipper Newsletter published monthly by
Karen Kogler, Equipper Church Volunteerism Resources