By Bruce Clutcher
This summer, 62 students from the Hershey Free Church will be attending Challenge 2012, the EFCA national youth conference, in New Orleans. Attendance at this life-changing event requires a desire on their part, parental permission, freeing up their work/family vacation schedules and, oh yes, raising $775 each, or $48,050 for the group.
That seems like a lot of money. But what if I told you that we, as a congregation, could easily foot the bill for the whole group to go? I am not talking about a single donor dropping a check in the offering plate for $48,050, or even 2,300 Hershey Free Church families contributing an extra $20.90 above their normal tithe to send the kids. What if I shared a way to send all of them, with absolutely no extra expense to you, while still maintaining your normal giving to the church?
No, it’s not illegal, and it’s not even immoral. It’s a perfectly legitimate and smart way to squeeze some extra cash out of your already shrinking income sponge. The idea is so simple you might think I’m crazy, but it works. It only takes a little planning on your part. With the planning, not only will you be able to send every single kid to a conference like Challenge, but maybe even put a few bucks in your own pocket.
What’s the ‘catch’ you ask? Ok, to qualify you have to eat food, take medications, consume household products, wear clothing or drive a car. Otherwise this ingenious idea isn’t for you.
Got your attention now? This is how it works: all you have to do is purchase grocery store cards from our student ministries office. For every $100 card sold through Core, they receive $5. Cards are available for Karns, Giant and Redners. The cards can be used to buy groceries, toiletries/household products, gasoline (at stores where pumps are provided), over-the-counter meds and prescription medications (where a pharmacy is present).
But wait – there’s more! Here’s how to take this fundraiser to the next level. Each of these stores has a rack of gift cards for other establishments such as restaurants, home centers and department stores. For no additional fee you can swap your grocery gift card for one of these other gift cards (note: Visa and Mastercard gift cards charge a processing fee so I usually avoid these). You can ‘exchange’ your grocery card at Redners, Karns or Giant for gift cards at places like Lowes, Home Depot, Macaroni Grill, Carabas, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Chili’s, On the Boarder, Cracker Barrel, Fridays, Red Robin, Outback, Red Lobster, Starbucks, Uno, Subway, Panara Bread, Hoss’s, PF Changs, Bonefish Grill, Maggiano’s, Kohl’s, Land’s End, Kmart, Pacsun, Lord & Taylor, Best Buy, ToysRUs, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Office Max, AMC Theaters, TJ Max, Norstroms, Macy’s, JCPenny, Sephora, Bed Bath Beyond, Sears, Petsmart, Pottery Barn, Joann Fabric, Old Navy and Marshalls to name a few. I am not advocating a life of “eating-out” to send these kids on a mission trip, but if you are going to eat out anyway at one of these places, why not take a little time to plan how you are going to pay for it and be a blessing to one of our youth?
Show Me the Numbers!
If our church has 2,300 families and less than one-eighth of them (e.g. 250) participate in this idea, and if each family spends each month, on average, $100 on groceries, $100 on household items/medications, $100 on gasoline (that’s practically one tank full these days!), and $100 on eating out/home center expenses, and they planned ahead and bought $400 a month from the student ministries department we would have $60,000 a year raised for our church youth!!
You still don’t believe me? Believe! Here’s the math: 250 families x $400 per month x 5 percent x 12 months = $60,000. And remember, this is with only one-eighth of our families participating, with conservative monthly expenditures used in the formula. While you are buying from Giant or Redners, you should sign up for the Giant Bonus card and Redners Pump Perks card. These cards give you additional savings at the register for your purchases plus discounts when you buy gas there (e.g. $0.10 per gallon for every $100 spent).
I just got back from Redners and using my Redners Pumps Perks card I saved $6.77 on my $41.55 grocery bill, plus added $41.55 to my $100 goal of qualifying for the $0.10 per gallon discount at the pump there.
I found out just swapping your Redners gift card for another store or restaurant gift card earns you Pump Perk points too! When I’m done shopping at Redners I save my receipts and give them to a friend in town who hands them in to his church youth group who gets credits for a percentage of those receipts for their youth group trips.
So far I have only given you some practical (and hopefully savvy) financial advice on funding our youth group’s conference and mission trips. But here’s where the spiritual component comes in. Rather than just designating your gift card fundraiser purchase to “the group” why not seek out a youth from the church whom you could support and pray for? If you don’t know any of the youth, Joyce Hetrick, the student ministries administrative assistant, would be happy to assign one to you. Praying for the student while encouraging them with your indirect financial support will go a long way to helping them learn to walk in the fullness of a resurrected life.
To participate in the grocery store gift card program contact Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 533-2092 x2021, or arrange your gift card purchase with your favorite middle or high school student.