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Pa. Churches turn talents into tithes

July 03, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

MARION, PA.

In the Gospel of Matthew, a man going on a journey entrusts three of his servants with his property. Two of the servants double the property and are commended by the master, who says to each, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

In the tradition of the parable, three Franklin County, Pa., churches entered a process to use congregants' talents to accept a financial gift, make that grow and then tithe 10 percent to another church.

The effort at the three churches has netted more than $24,000 from the original $1,830 investment. Now, the last church to involve itself in the program is looking to split its $1,145 tithe between two other area United Methodist churches.

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"I think the main idea for everybody is that we pass something on," said the Rev. Stacy Crawford of Greencastle First United Methodist Church.

The Greencastle, Pa., church launched the initiative in the summer of 2004 by distributing $1,830 to 94 families, couples and individuals. The participants increased that figure to $7,477 through activities like delivering motivational speeches, making sandwiches and recording a praise compact disc, Crawford said.

Children maintained lemonade stands, Crawford said. People not necessarily active in church happenings were motivated to join, he said.

"All of a sudden, they had a part to play. Talents came out, their gifts," Crawford said.

The Greencastle First United Methodist Church tithed $750 to the State Line United Methodist Church.

"It promotes connectionalism. We're all in this together," said the Rev. Dwaine Krebs of the State Line, Pa., church.

The youth group there recorded CDs, while other participants mowed lawns, baked pies, provided home repairs and sold chicken corn soup. The 70 participants brought the amount to more than $5,000, Krebs said.

They tithed $580 to the Marion First United Methodist Church in November 2005.

"People got excited, I think, about what the potential was," said the Rev. Chris Renner of the Marion church.

Renner himself joined with Vinnie's Restaurant on Molly Pitcher Highway to sell and deliver 192 frozen stromboli. Two dollars from the sale of each of the $5 stromboli went to the church.

"It's been a lot of fun. It's brought people together," Renner said, explaining how he worked with the restaurant owner and then used someone else's empty freezer for storage.

Renner commenced the church's involvement with a sermon on the parable of the talents from Matthew, signing up 103 participants from a church that averages 125 parishioners a week.

The church raised $11,726, including the money invested, and the church council is dividing its tithe between Fetterhoff Chapel United Methodist Church and Messiah United Methodist Church.

"We have had four United Methodist churches contact us. They saw what was happening," Renner said.

His church is earmarking the funds to repair an audio system in the social hall and possibly install a multimedia system in the sanctuary.

The program "involved not only the folks in the church but other persons in the community," Renner said.

"There was a country breakfast here one Saturday morning, where over 100 people were served from the community. ... We had a lot of neighborhood folks stop in," Renner said.

Congregants also made cards, hosted dinners, designed shirts, sold photo plaques of the church and waxed vehicles, oftentimes reinvesting the money. Congregants partnered in the process and got to know each other better, he said.

"People within the church worked together in a different kind of way," Renner said.

If all the projects and sales had stayed within the church, it would not have seen $12,000 raised, he said.

"It connected churches. It connected communities," Renner said.

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