“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
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By Steve Poe
Remember when a dollar was worth something? I remember paying a little less than a dollar for a gallon of gas. Today gasoline commonly costs triple that amount. Some time ago, if you wanted hot coffee, you could buy one for yourself and one for a friend and still get change back from your dollar. Today a Starbucks coffee starts at $1.85. You just can’t do much with a dollar anymore.
And yet, what if each of us combined our dollars? That’s exactly what we do at our church with an initiative we call Northview Dollar Club. Four times a year, we ask everyone at all our campuses to contribute a dollar for an unknown cause. Two weeks later, we show the church a video story of what we did with the money. It usually is very emotional to watch the story unfold.
Again, a dollar is not worth much, but when combined with other dollars, we can make a significant difference in a hurting ministry or family. Together we can help “the least of these.”
Dollar Club Stories
We collected about $5,000 in our first Dollar Club offering five years ago. A family at one of our campuses had a 12-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy. She was deaf and couldn’t walk or talk. Some of their friends told us the family wanted a communication device for their daughter but couldn’t afford it. To keep our plan a surprise, we told the family we would like to film a story of their journey with their daughter. At a certain point in the interview, I asked about the communication device. I then reminded them about the Northview Dollar Club, and as I handed them a check, I told them we would like to purchase it for them. You can imagine the surprise and emotion that followed.
Our second Dollar Club collection benefited a new ministry we learned about called Circle City Relief. Founders Matt and Sandy Gay set up in an Indianapolis parking lot every Sunday and provide hot meals, socks, and toiletries for the homeless. We heard they had to borrow a friend’s van every week to haul everything to the parking lot. We told Matt we wanted to shoot a video of their ministry to show to our church.
While one of our pastors interviewed Matt in the parking lot, another pastor drove up behind them in a van we had purchased with Dollar Club money. He walked up behind Matt and told him about the Northview Dollar Club, and we had heard their ministry needed a van. He handed Matt the keys and asked him to turn around. The van was right behind him. It was a powerful, emotional moment as Matt threw his arms around our pastor.
Another offering benefited a young woman who had fallen down the stairs and broken her neck, leaving her a quadriplegic. She was struggling emotionally and had thoughts of suicide. Because of the Dollar Club and the support of friends, not only did she decide she wanted to live, but she started attending church and turned her life back to God.
Christmas Dollar Clubs
We take a broader approach with our Christmas-themed Dollar Club each year. For instance, one year I went to a filling station in a poorer community and purchased gas for everyone who drove in. I then went to a small family grocery store in the city and paid for groceries as people came through the checkout line. In a few cases, I told the families to go back and shop some more—that I would pay for all their groceries.
The grocery store manager told us one of his employees was having a difficult time. She was raising her grandchildren and her husband had lost his job. I spoke with her about the family’s struggles and told her we wanted to help. She broke down and cried, as did several other employees we helped that day.
We’ve also paid utility bills and purchased Christmas presents for families. We were able to end homelessness for two families and purchased work clothing for the residents of Isaiah House, a reentry house for ex-offenders in Indianapolis. We have helped families with terminally ill kids dealing with long stays at Riley’s Children’s Hospital. There are plenty of great ways to help at Christmas.
Recent Dollar Clubs
Not long ago we were able to abolish medical debt for almost 6,000 families through a company called RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that purchases unpaid debt for pennies on the dollar. (See “Your Medical Debt Has Been Forgiven” in this issue.) On this occasion, we asked our church to consider giving $3 each, assuring them it would be worth it. We raised $40,000, and RIP used that money to pay off more than $7.8 million in debt! RIP Medical sent letters to beneficiaries throughout our area telling them that Northview Church had paid their medical debt, allowing them to have a fresh start. We have campuses in 10 communities, and through this initiative we were able to pay off anywhere from 37 percent of medical debt in one community to as much as 100 percent in another.
The most recent Dollar Club benefited a widow whose pastor husband had passed away several years ago. They had served a small church, so finances were always tight, but he died suddenly, leaving her in a very difficult situation. A few years later, the woman’s father died, and so her mother came to live with her. There was no more room in the house, so they converted the garage into a small apartment for the mom, but the apartment didn’t have a bathroom. The Dollar Club funds paid for installation of a bathroom in the apartment. Both women were emotional to receive this gift of love.
Jesus said we have an obligation and responsibility to help “the least of these.” One day we will give an account for how we helped hurting people. Yet, so often people feel they don’t have much to offer. This is one reason I love the Northview Dollar Club! I think it helps people see that, while we might have limited ability to make a difference in our world, we can work together to help the least of these. If every believer will give God their first and best, I believe the church can change the world!
Steve Poe has served as senior pastor of Northview Church—a multisite church in central Indiana, currently with 13 locations—since 1999. He began his ministry after spending 11 years in the business world and cultivating a heart for the unchurched.