MONTPELIER, Ind. (BP)—Guys versus gals -– it sounds childish at first, but not when there’s a free meal on the line. That’s exactly what pastor Darrin Morgan was counting on when he proposed an unusual contest for the first-ever Lottie Moon Christmas Offering at First Baptist Church in Montpelier, Ind.
“We took a couple of large, gallon-size pickle jars and marked one for men and one for women,” Morgan said. Every penny the congregation put in their team’s jar earned them a point. But there was a twist: Points were subtracted for every silver coin. That meant the teams could sabotage each other’s progress by dropping every nickel, dime and quarter they could find into their opponent’s jar.
The team with the fewest points would be required to cook breakfast and serve it to the winners.
“The competition got a lot more people involved than normally would have,” Morgan said. “It got them excited about something they didn’t know a lot about.”
Though many Southern Baptist churches already support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the concept is new for this Indiana congregation, with an average Sunday attendance of 93. The church joined the Southern Baptist Convention just over a year ago.
For First Baptist’s members to begin participating in Southern Baptist life “is unique for them in the sense that they have to learn about it,” Morgan said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to inform people about the way Southern Baptists do missions. We’ve always been a giving church.”
As the weeks went by, First Baptist’s pickle jars began to bulge as members deposited more and more pennies into the jars. That’s when pastor Morgan decided it was time to coach the men on a power-play to elbow out the women.
“I said, ‘Look, guys, let’s think about this in terms of Ebay,’” Morgan said. “How is it that you win a bid? You come in at the last moment.”
On the final day of the offering, Andy Wagner, a member of the men’s team, dropped a bomb on the ladies in the form of a $50 brick of pennies. When the dust had settled and all the coins were counted, the men emerged victorious, but just barely -– edging out the women by $1.10.
“Everybody had a lot of fun with it,” Wagner said.
In the end, First Baptist gave more than $400 for its inaugural Lottie Moon offering, a figure that made the pastor proud.
“When we get the totals on the actual amount raised [nationwide], I can say, ‘You were a part of that,’” Morgan said. “And they can get excited that they participated in something on a much larger scale than they could have ever done alone.”
Amy Pontius, a member of the women’s team, reflected, “Sometimes here in the United States we get preoccupied with our little chunk of the world. I think having a heart for missions is so important because it’s necessary to spread the Gospel. I’m very impressed with how well Southern Baptists support their missionaries and equip them to go out and do their work.
“As Christians God may not call us to go, but He’s called us to provide for the people that do,” Pontius said.
As for next year’s Lottie Moon offering, First Baptist plans to do the contest again.
“Besides, the ladies want a second chance,” Morgan said.