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Utah church invests in community Christmas
This story originally appeared in December 20 edition of Baptist Press.
PRICE, Utah (BP) – Gospel Community Church lives up to its name at Christmas.
This year the congregation of about 30 adults and their offspring bought Christmas gifts for 59 individuals in the high desert community east of the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains.
“We are always looking for opportunities to engage with the community,” Pastor Chris Polito told Baptist Press. “God has blessed us and we want to love our community by helping out where we can.”
Three years ago the Southern Baptist church decided to use its excess-of-budget offerings for the community, “rather than just socking it away in a bank account,” Polito said. The church allocates 3 percent of undesignated budget income for the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together to share God’s love worldwide.
Gospel Community’s three unpaid pastors and their wives – Polito, Nick Teny and Tony Martinez – came up with the plan to spend the excess dollars on Christmas gifts for some of those in the town of about 8,300 who struggle financially.
“God has blessed us with a congregation of people who are generous givers,” Polito said. “We just put it out on social media to nominate people who needed help this Christmas.”
This year the budget overage came to $8,700, including $700 donated by a teen who gave the money he earned doing a community service project.
“When you see how God is working in the congregation you can see the growth over the three years,” Polito said. The first year Gospel Community was able to help provide Christmas for 39 people. In year two, 45 people.
This year, the 59 individuals consisted of 11 families and nine mentally challenged teens in a group home. Each family was notified they had been chosen, and were given a form to fill out and return including clothing sizes and gift preferences.
“We went to various places to support as many local businesses as we could,” Polito said. “With the info on the forms, we could shop pretty specifically.”
The allocated $150 per person meant each individual received some if not all their wishes, including a hoverboard, ear buds, a Barbie and much more.
Saturday afternoon in the church worship center all the nearly 300 gifts were wrapped.
“It was chaos, crazy,” member Liz Konakis told Baptist Press. “It was wild and crazy and carrying on.”
Each gift was tagged with a number. Each number was attached to a recipient’s name.
“Some big dinosaur had three ladies wrapping it,” Konakis said. Other gifts: pillows, a bean bag chair, curling iron, boots, hats, clothing and a Bible. “Trying to get it all organized was a little crazy.”
Six teams set out after church – Teny had preached on “the advent (arrival) of love” – in cars, SUVs and pickup trucks stuffed with packages and armed with addresses.
Some houses weren’t so easy to find. Not all houses have visible addresses. Some people protect their neighbors from unknown people wanting to find them, even when they hear the “outlandish” tale that they’re just bringing gifts. When all else failed, some recipients were called for direction, but the phones weren’t answered because the number calling was unknown.
With effort, however, each family received its gifts. At each home, the gospel was concisely shared, prayer requests were sought, the requests and residents were prayed for, and multiple calls – from both recipients and deliverers – of “Merry Christmas!” were heard.
But that wasn’t the end.
Several delivery teams then ate together at local restaurants, having missed their Sunday dinner. The increased camaraderie among church members was an unanticipated blessing from the Lord, Polito said.
“In everything we do, we try to glorify the Lord,” Polito said. “With this Christmas project, we want to strengthen the connection between the church – the bride of Christ – and the community.”
The “pastors and wives” team already are talking about next year.
“We want to be able to branch out a little more, to build relationships with the families instead of just dropping off gifts,” Polito said. “We’re going to be inviting the mom and dad to shop with us.
“All three years we’ve been doing this, we’ve been doing it the same day ‘Shop with a cop’ have been doing it,” the pastor continued. “We’ve seen them laughing and building rapport with the community, and we want to do that too, for God’s honor and glory.”
by Karen L. Willoughby for Baptist Press. Used By Permission.
UISBC Legal invites you to a free Finish Well webinar
Layton, UT – UISBC Convention Attorney, Gary McKean would like to encourage pastors, church administrators, church clerks, treasurers and trustees to participate in a Finish Well Webinar offered by the Church Law & Tax division of Christianity Today Magazine. In addition to this free webinar, we encourage you to read their End of Year Checklist to find 17 tasks you should consider addressing before the calendar turns over into 2023. Many changes have taken place in recent years regarding reporting and designating end of year numbers through the IRS. You want to make sure your church is still in compliance with new regulations.
End of Year Task Checklist from Christianity Today
The end of the year always brings a flurry of activities to church offices – Between year-end giving, holiday bonuses, and 2023 budget plans, leaders can often feel overwhelmed.
In this free webinar, join attorney, CPA, and senior editor Richard R. Hammar from Church Law & Tax, to learn how to equip and gain the confidence needed to head into the new year.
We’ll provide key updates and reminders on a variety of fronts, including:
✔ How to correctly handle business expenses for pastors and staff;
✔ How to properly set minister housing allowances;
✔ How to document and process charitable contributions; and,
✔ How to identify and prepare the records and paperwork that ministers, staff members, and the church will need for the upcoming tax-filing season.
Don’t miss this perennially popular event!
Want Your Questions Answered Live?
Though Richard Hammar will be answering questions live, we encourage you to pre-submit questions by writing email@example.com no later than Friday, December 9th.