Kentucky Annual Conference Children and Poverty Grants: IT WORKED FOR US!
For several years the KY Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has approved grants that provide seed money to encourage smaller congregations to develop creative ministries that will reach out to children living in poverty and low economic situations. These monies are used to fund such ministries as: after school care, summer feeding programs, backpack programs, “I am 3rd” Soccer League, God’s pantry ministry, and a van ministry. The grant funds are also used to offer camp scholarships to our Conference supported Camp ministries for children who could not otherwise afford to attend summer camp.
Two Necessary Factors:
1) There must be a Conference Children’s Ministry Team or a person on Conference staff willing to administer and oversee the process. This Conference has a Children’s Ministry Team with a chairperson and 14 volunteers composed of members, both lay and clergy, who are involved in children’s ministry. The Grant applications are just one part of the mission of the Children’s Ministry Team. The Team is also a “think tank” for how to better connect and serve the children’s leaders in our Conference. The Team meets twice a year, spring and fall, to review the submitted grant applications, and it can either process the grant or delay the request pending the resubmitting of a revised or more complete request. We want churches to succeed in their new ministry and so we offer suggestions on how to rethink their outreach. Our application and information is located on the KY conference web site http://www.kyumc.org/pages/detail/1776.
2) Funding Source. To continue the grants, our Team knew we needed a source of dependable funding. We have been blessed with an Annual Conference that places a high priority on children. Each year we are given 3 to 4 minutes of “Floor Time” at Annual Conference to present our work and to announce the grant recipients. In 2010, the Children’s Team was given permission to place a small table in the Annual Conference Hall that we called a “Change for Change” drive. The idea came from a team meeting where a clergy member said what if “bragging rights” were given to the district that donated the most amount of spare change for the “Children and Poverty Grants”? We set up a table in the back of the Annual Conference hall with a bucket for each of the 12 Districts, decorated them with children’s toys and had a big banner that said “CHANGE FOR CHANGE”. As people walked by they placed their spare change in their own district bucket and each day we announced the amount of change collected from the districts. Our expectation in the first year was $1,000 to fund one grant; we met that goal and more. Each year the fund has grown, and we raised almost $10,000 in 2013!
The Kentucky Annual Conference has several districts that are very rural with smaller congregations that often believe they cannot make a difference. Our team intentionally encouraged each district to involve the children from smaller congregations in a mission project by collecting change from their local church congregations. We began with information on how to help collect change during charge conferences. One district in Eastern Kentucky contacted every church to plant the seeds of stewardship by emphasizing “Generous Giving” with a “Change for Change” offering. The idea was not to take away from their regular or traditional missional offerings and tithes, but to go above and beyond. The goal was 80% involvement by the district churches. The yield was 88% participation and a total collection of $5,505.74. Different churches came up with creative ways to contribute:
- Standing at the exit door with a hat in hand (small church of 8 adults yielded $25)
- Placing buckets at entry ways or gallon jars on the altar rails.
- Collecting pennies (15 lbs of pennies = $150)
- Noisy Offerings, where children pulled red wagons up and down the aisles for people to toss in coins that make a “joyful noise” during worship.
- Children would follow ushers with brightly colored buckets for coins and then bring the buckets to the altar.
The Children and Poverty grants that are funded through the “Change for Change” offering worked for us in Kentucky. Could it work for you?
Submitted by Rev. Susan Gran Skaggs, Children’s Ministry Team Chair