The following post was written by Robb Hollifield. Robb serves as the senior high student pastor at Cross Creek Church in Fountain, CO. In addition to his role at Cross Creek, Robb serves weekly in a local skateboard ministry called P.R.O.C.E.S.S. in Colorado Springs.
Fundraising can be the bane of a student pastor’s existence. “Bane” may even be the understatement of the year. Bake sales, car washes, garage sales… Sure, they raise money for your expensive camp week or allow an incredible retreat to happen, but the old phrase “wrangling cats” feels comparable, even easier honestly.
That being said, a goal in our ministry is to hold fundraisers that do more than just chop the price for an exorbitant event. Building character due to “elbow grease” is a great perk to manual labor fundraisers, but more specifically, we want fundraisers that build unity in the group. A fundraiser that brings the fruit of unity is a fundraiser leaders and students both look forward to each year.
OUR SOUGHT-AFTER FUNDRAISER (YES, THAT EXISTS)
For us, the most coveted fundraiser we do is one called Dinner and a Show which raises money for a Winter Camp retreat. Sounds easy enough, right? Charge people to eat some cheap, bulk spaghetti and entertain them for a bit. And that’s what we did for a while… But remember, just making money doesn’t have to be the only goal. Sure, the lame version locks in mom, dad, and maybe grandma, but not teachers, co-workers, or neighbors, the real targets for this type of event to grow.
As we started upgrading our Dinner and a Show, the culture has only grown over the years. This fundraiser has turned into local business donated Texas BBQ dinner and a full stage production filled with hilarious skits, rockin’ live music, and a heart-wrenching gospel presentation that gives any willing student the opportunity to share their short Christ-centered testimony with not a single dry eye in the house. In the month of preparation, leaders take advantage of the opportunity to gather their students together multiple times a week to practice their skits because no one wants to perform a dud to multiple sold out shows when show day comes around. When the curtains close and the show is wrapped, students look back at an unbelievable night that adults in attendance can’t stop talking about! Leaders have buy-in, students get to know others deeper, and of course, money is raised for the Winter Camp retreat.
As you can imagine, the ridiculously HUGE undertaking of Dinner and a Show followed by Winter Camp just a few short weeks later will be taxing on any group of leaders, whether they’re battle-tested or not. But at least they have the chance to recoup a bit between the two events.
This particular year, I really wanted to try a new location for Winter Camp. Unfortunately, the very popular new spot only had one available weekend left which would push Dinner and Show and Winter Camp together with only five days between them. Insane? More like instupid. But nonetheless, I still asked our leaders if they would be up for the challenge just for this year to see if the new location would be worth snagging the following year. Much to my surprise, a jolly “Let’s do it!” rang unanimous amongst the group … (ok, ok, I may have sold the idea with the perk of knocking out all the winter events in one week, and they totally bit. I promise I really do cherish my leaders :’D ).
And so, I booked the dates. Dinner and a Show came around and so many tickets sold that we actually had to add an extra show last minute. Stressful! Also, this particular year we had more media, more elements in the show, the largest student count to date, and the skits were elaborate (really elaborate). I can safely say it was the GREATEST Dinner and Show in history but our leaders were absolutely fried. Five days later, we loaded the transportation, traveled to what was the perfect new location for Winter Camp, and every leader got camp-type hours of sleep (to the layman, that means basically none). What had I done???
THEY GET IT!
Luckily, no leaders were hurt during the making of this story. But, fears will creep into the heads of student pastors that feel they may have made a wrong call. Were leaders about to jump ship because their captain was a cruel, heartless tyrant that cracks the whip on his volunteers like they work for him (all vulnerable thoughts in my head)? The first opportunity I would have to make amends would be in our debrief leaders meeting the next weekend. My thinking was I’ll open the meeting talking about all the students that had incredible life change through both events. Then, I would ask for the sincerest forgiveness while promising this type of scheduling blunder would never happen again. After that, I would quickly move on before they had the chance to throw things at me.
But something happened. Something I didn’t expect and something I hadn’t ever seen to this magnitude. As I tried to quickly hit the next point in our meeting after my apology, a leader in the front row interrupted me with a polite but stern, “Wait!” Uh oh, here comes the rotten tomatoes…
She said, “Robb, first of all, I forgive you. Secondly, I think we should do the same schedule next year.”
Me: “Huh??? We’re talking about the same thing here, right? Crazy huge, month-long workload with Dinner and a Show followed by no sleep weekend just five days later??”
Not only was her laugh scarily sadistic as she agreed we were talking about the same thing, but now I started to fear for her life with the angry leader mob behind her.
“I agree with her!” said a leader in the back. “Me too!” said another one. And another one, and another, and another. EVERY SINGLE LEADER spoke up that God had moved in their group in miraculous ways with the unity built at Dinner and a Show and the reaping that took place just five days later at Winter Camp.
There was no reluctance in their voices as they asked for this suffering to be scheduled again the next year. There was no hesitation even as they sat in those chairs actually STILL tired from the previous weekend. But the fruit was undeniable. And they got it. They understood what selfless sacrifice looked like.
In awe, I was speechless, almost to the point of tears. I love students. I love seeing students welcome life change and accepting their Christ-centered purpose. I was radically changed as a high schooler which is why I love student ministry so much. In that moment, I saw a completely new side of this ministry. I saw a completely unified front that cared deeply just as much as I did. I saw a group of people willing to ring out every bit of themselves so that others could see Jesus. It wasn’t my ministry, it was all of ours. They had tasted rich ministry and they would never be the same.
One leader spoke up through the silence of my awe and simply quoted our theme verse for the calendar year, Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,” She paused, then finished, “if we do not give up.”
Accompanied with the verse, she said something I hope is a continual encouragement for us: “It’s crazy how God allows us to share in His blessings. We didn’t give up, and I don’t ever want to miss that reaping ever again.”
I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to disciple those who disciple others. Let your passion be infectious to those who follow.