By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
SEAFORD, Del.—Homer McKeithan, pastor of Grace Church, Seaford, is beaming from ear to ear. He recently discovered Grace, averaging 125 on Sunday mornings, mostly retired folks, was in the top four percent of churches giving to the 2009 International Mission Board’s (IMB) Lottie Moon Christmas offering. The church took and met the “Tengchow Challenge,” giving between $50 to $74 per capita. Grace members gave $71.63 per capita.
“It was over and beyond anything I hoped that they would do. When I got this letter from the IMB, I got up and said, ‘Do you know how proud you have made your pastor?’”
McKeithan wasn’t totally surprised though. “Our folks have always been good at giving to missions. In the six years since I’ve been here, we’ve always met or exceeded the goals we set.”
He believes in keeping missions a priority.
“You have to keep it before the people, let them know constantly how important it is that we not fall back. It’s especially important in a bad economy not to let up on our giving—to go over and beyond,” McKeithan said. That goes for all of the offerings Grace members contribute to—Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong and State Missions. Recently the church gave $300 over and above what they committed to state missions offering.
McKeithan said the church does not do fundraisers, but they do strive to put a face on missions including having missionaries come speak about their ministries. McKeithan’s cousin serves as an IMB missionary in Asia so he has her speak whenever she’s available.
Missions committee members also make missions visible, making sure it’s always mentioned in bulletins, keeping up bulletin boards and using visual aids.
One year they had a Christmas tree decked with ornaments representing every $100 given.
“They’re innovative ways to show how we’re progressing,” McKeithan said. “You can always see where we are in the process—one half, three quarters, wherever. It helps keep up the good work and encourages them.”
“I feel like people need to understand and give out of their own hearts. I want to challenge them to go over and above their regular giving,” the pastor said.
In addition to giving, McKeithan urges folks to go on missions trips. They have teams that minister in Mexico and they do local outreaches, providing meals and homework help to kids in local government housing projects.
Recently, the church installed a basketball hoop and the community kids quickly responded. Youth began coming over to play and the church organized a three-on-three tournament.
“The response was amazing. We put six teams together and families came to watch. We had between 70 to 80 people show up for the games!” McKeithan said.
Church members also drew 150 visitors to a party on Halloween. Volunteers, decorated rooms with different themes and they had games, goodies, hot dogs and drinks.
“We’re building a relationship with the community,” McKeithan said. I’ve been here for over six years and I’ve been promoting missions as being hands-on. As they see what missions is all about, I’ve seen an improvement in both international and NAMB giving.
“I tell them all the time, when you do missions you get your hands dirty!” he said with a chuckle.