How to turn plastic eggs into $4,000 (or more)

This past spring, Calvary Tabernacle (the church I attend) pledged to raise $3,000 for a missions program called Sheaves For Christ (SFC). Perhaps $3,000 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to you – and in the grand scheme of life, it isn’t. But for our small congregation of mostly blue-collar workers, raising that amount above and beyond our regular offerings was going to require some effort.

Our pastor chose two people to spearhead the effort: me and our youth pastor, a young man named Nick. Unfortunately, neither of us was brimming with great money-making ideas. We kick-started the drive, but Nick and I felt stuck in neutral.

Dick & Mike Jackson
Dick and Mike Jackson with an egg-filled aquarium.

Thankfully, two church members named Mike and Dick Jackson (they are brothers) came to the rescue by offering a fantastic fundraising idea that helped us blow past our goal. (Ironically, while SFC is a youth-driven fundraiser, both Jackson brothers are in their 60s.) Their idea will work for your church or organization, too. You can add your own personal twist(s) and use it to reach whatever fundraising goal you’ve set.

Mike purchased 25 dozen plastic eggs at a local hobby store – the kind commonly seen around the Easter season. He placed a small slip of paper inside each egg, with a dollar amount written on each slip. The amounts ranged from $1 to $25. When he was finished, there were 12 eggs with a $1 slip, 12 with a $2 slip, and … you get the picture. The amounts written on the slips of paper totaled $3,900.

Mike also purchased two small aquariums. He placed all the eggs with paper slips that read between $1 and $13 in the first aquarium. In the second, he placed the eggs with slips ranging between $14 and $25. (You probably figured that out.)

To spice things up, Dick added extra slips to random eggs that read “You won!” with either $5 or $10 written on the reverse side. Those slips could be redeemed for a $5 McDonald’s gift card or a $10 Dairy Queen gift card. He also stuck a $20 bill in one egg.

For 12 consecutive Sundays, worshipers were encouraged to prove they weren’t a “chicken” by withdrawing an egg, with the understanding that they would give the corresponding amount written on the slip of paper inside. (We urged them to make the donation that day, if possible.) With the more expensive eggs in a separate aquarium, people could choose the level of giving most appropriate for their budget. The goal was to get rid of 25 eggs per Sunday, thus clearing the aquariums within three months.

Calvary Tabernacle cleared 36 eggs from the aquariums on the first Sunday of our drive, and we immediately saw a spike in our total amount raised. The effort stalled a bit during August, but we kicked it into overdrive when September arrived.

We wrapped up the effort on September 8 with a special appeal from our pastor. When the service was finished, both aquariums were empty. We raised $3,900, exceeded our SFC goal, and secured extra funds to serve a need in our ladies ministry.

Nick and I owe a big “thank you” to Mike and Dick, who already are plotting how they can expand on their idea next year. Without their help, we probably wouldn’t have reached our SFC goal.

The beauty of this fundraising idea is that it is super-simple. You also can add innumerable twists to make it more fun, or expand it to raise more funds. Take it and make it your own.

Don’t be a chicken! And don’t forget to let me know how it works.

“Pigheaded discipline and determination”

A recent trend among pastors and ministry leaders is reading business books with the hope of learning leadership techniques that will take their church to the next level. A few years ago, it seemed every church leader in America (including me) had his nose buried in Jim Collins’ Good to Great.

Recently, I followed the recommendation of one of my favorite bloggers and picked up a copy of The Ultimate Sales Machine by the late Chet Holmes. I really didn’t expect to learn anything about ministry, but, to my surprise, I gained a valuable insight that I’ll share momentarily.

Ultimate Sales Machine

Please note: Chet Holmes was a salesman, and most of the “12 key strategies” in The Ultimate Sales Machine are related to that aspect of business. Many of his recommendations are of somewhat limited value to churches and ministries.

For example, Holmes devoted an entire chapter to hiring “superstar” sales staff and then paying them on commission. He also spent much of the book sharing strategies for attracting “Dream 100” customers – prospects who will be the most financially profitable. I’m not sure you could (or should) adapt either of those ideas to your church.

Holmes did offer an underlying principle that applies to life and ministry, and was worth the price of the book. That principle is to apply “pigheaded discipline and determination” to every project you tackle. Holmes said it was the most important lesson he taught, and he called it “a powerful force for creating success.”

“Mastery is not about being special or more gifted than anyone else. Mastery is a direct result of pigheaded discipline and determination.” – Chet Holmes

Consider your own situation: how many great ideas have you had that barely made it off the launching pad before crashing back to earth, primarily because you lacked disciplined follow-through? I cringe as I contemplate the initiatives that have died in my hand, mostly for this reason. As Holmes notes, “Implementation, not ideas, is the key to real success.”

We can scour business books searching for new ideas, but most of us already have all the breakthrough strategies we’ll ever need. What we usually lack is the “pigheaded discipline and determination” to implement those strategies at every level.

Holmes fills The Ultimate Sales Machine with examples of how he used “pigheaded discipline and determination” to help companies double and even triple their revenues. He comes off as a bit of a braggart, but my own sales experience tells me the lessons he shares work in the real world.

If you own a business or make a living via sales, you should read The Ultimate Sales Machine. Otherwise, just start applying “pigheaded discipline and determination” to every project you tackle, and start building the ultimate ministry machine.

Summer slumps and harvest seasons

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, and a cause for celebration among ministry leaders everywhere. Saints that couldn’t be found with a search party suddenly reappear on the pew. Hope surges after three months of sagging attendance.

A few weeks ago, I heard Rachel Cruze, daughter of financial guru Dave Ramsey, comment that many people treat fall as a sort of second New Year. They’re looking to turn over a new leaf along with the page of the calendar. This offers a great opportunity to anyone involved in ministry. People suddenly seem more open to an invitation to church than they may have been a few weeks before. They’re ready for change.

Photo by Pamela Cather via

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, wrote an article for in which he notes that Labor Day through Thanksgiving typically is a time of harvest in the church he leads. “Summer vacations are over … schools are back in session, new people have moved into the area, and our attendance swells,” Driscoll wrote.

But don’t look too far ahead on the calendar, because the holidays are lurking. In the same article, Driscoll also admits that “the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is a bit flat” at Mars Hill. Many people leave town during the holidays, Driscoll says, and the church closes its offices between Christmas and New Year’s Day. But when spring arrives, Mars Hill goes back into harvest mode.

Every church and every region of the country is a bit different, I’m sure. But I grew up in a farming community, and know that, even in nature, everything grinds to a halt during the heat of summer and the dead of winter. Nature patiently awaits the arrival of the next season.

Ministry would seem to have little in common with agriculture, unless you’ve read the Bible. Jesus repeatedly used farming analogies to relate spiritual truth. Paul picked up this theme in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he noted, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

If there are times of spiritual planting, watering, and harvesting, then there also are spiritual summers and winters – seasons of waiting. However, as every farmer knows, snow and cold play as important a role in the harvest as sunshine and rain. The earth rests, storing up water and nutrients so it can yield its riches the following fall. It’s all part of the cycle.

No ministry leader enjoys a summer slump or a holiday exodus. But the next time you walk to the pulpit and see more chairs are empty than occupied, carry on. Maybe God is giving you an opportunity to put nutrients in the soil that will produce a harvest in a few short months.

Seven lessons from a failed church plant

On a humid Saturday evening in July 2002, my wife and I took the first step on a journey that would define the next decade of our lives. We gathered with our pastor and several fellow believers in a rented conference room in a college community for a prayer meeting. It was the first public service of what we intended to be a new church plant.

During the next seven years, my wife and I struggled to build a congregation. At times we seemed destined for success: at other moments, we felt like miserable failures. Our intention was to plant a dynamic church that would change the world. We inadvertently built a student ministry that seemed to touch only a handful of lives.

Photo by Marian Trinidad, via

There is a lot more to this story, but that’s enough for now. Regardless of the outcome, every experience includes a lesson. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what I learned during my time as a church planter, and how it might make me more fruitful in future seasons.

The following are seven important lessons I learned during my time as a church planter. I offer them in the hope they’ll help someone who may be walking a similar road.

1. Your relationship with God must be your most important priority.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to neglect prayer and God’s Word in favor of what seem to be more urgent demands. But remember that the strength of your personal relationship with God will be directly reflected in the power of the church you lead.

2. Do the things that make a difference.
As a church planter (or pastor), you can be overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done. But God didn’t call (or empower) you to do everything. He called you to preach and teach His Word. Make sure you’ve done that to the best of your ability before you get sidetracked on other responsibilities.

3. Be fearless.
Satan wants you to be intimidated. So be fearless. Looking back, I know I missed some great ministry opportunities because I was too much of a chicken.

4. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
There’s a lot I’d like to say, but this is enough for now: Don’t pretend you’re a church of thousands when only a dozen people are present. You may live in a fantasy world, but the people on the seats are firmly grounded in reality. Don’t be ashamed of what you really are.

5. The church plant must precede all other ministerial priorities.
The church you lead needs you more than any other church or ministry. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to the demands of others so you can say “yes” to the church God called you to lead.

6. Don’t go until you’re ready.
Tollie and I got married, moved to a new community, changed jobs, and started a church, all within a 12-month period. Avoid this if at all possible.

7. Don’t go alone.
There’s a reason Jesus sent His disciples in pairs. Paul didn’t go on missionary journeys by himself. The New Testament is the story of disciples working together to plant churches and proclaim His message.

I hope to elaborate on each of these points in future posts. My prayer is that these lessons will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Don’t worry: you’ll make a few of your own! No one ever accomplished anything of importance without having a few stumbles on the journey. But if God called you to be a pastor and/or church planter, you can be successful!

Four reasons you need to join Toastmasters

Earlier this year, I was elected to serve as public relations officer for the Gem City Toastmasters, the local club here in Quincy. To help me learn more about my assigned duties, I attended a Toastmasters Leadership Institute in St. Louis.

Naturally, I signed up for the session specifically provided for new public relations officers. The trainer, a longtime public relations officer in a corporate club, summed up our responsibilities in one sentence: Get new members through the door.

Photo via Flickr (Kheel Center)

Her one line mission statement made me ponder the question, “Why should someone join Toastmasters?”

In my experience, Toastmasters offers numerous benefits. Here are my top four reasons you should join Toastmasters today.

1.      Toastmasters can make you a better speaker.

I joined the Gem City club four years ago because I wanted to improve my preaching and teaching. I’m still not the world’s greatest communicator, but Toastmasters has helped polish my skills and given me new tips and tricks for connecting with audiences.

It’s always interesting to watch new members begin their Toastmasters journey. The Toastmasters curriculum begins with an “icebreaker” speech, in which new members share a little about themselves. Most of these speeches are marked by visible nervousness. The results usually aren’t pretty.

From that point forward, almost every Toastmaster rapidly shows marked improvement. It’s amazing how much better members communicate in a short amount of time

2.     Toastmasters can make you a better leader.

The leadership development portion of Toastmasters often is overshadowed by the emphasis on communication, but nonetheless is an important benefit of membership.

My new role as a public relations officer is a great example. At work, my job consists primarily of sales and customer service. But through Toastmasters, I’m able to learn new skills and enhance my resume. In today’s tough economy, adding maximum value to current and future employers is a must.

3.     Toastmasters allows you to practice before performing.

One of my fellow Gem City Toastmasters owns a local machine shop. He recently attended a trade show to pitch his company to prospective customers. Before attending the show, he practiced his sales pitch in front of our club. Members then offered feedback about how he might improve his presentation.

Other members have practiced work-related presentations at club meetings before the actual performance. Every Toastmaster knows that confidence is the most important ingredient in a great presentation, and practice is the best way to build confidence.

4.     Toastmasters provides fantastic networking opportunities.

I met my current employer through Toastmasters. I have no doubt he pulled my résumé out of the stack primarily because he recognized my name.

Most of my fellow Toastmasters also are business and community leaders. Our club’s membership roll includes a local pastor, two professors, a factory supervisor, a retired property manager, and other professionals with connections. It certainly doesn’t hurt your career to rub shoulders with those kinds of people.

Ready to get started? Click here and follow these three easy steps.

If you live anywhere close to Quincy, Illinois, I invite you to visit Gem City Toastmasters. We meet at noon on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 1125 Hampshire. (That’s the location of Calvary Tabernacle, the church I attend.) Visit my contact page and let me know you’re coming.

I’ll see you at our meeting on Wednesday!