Sharing the Wealth

It started as an easy fundraiser suggestion: what if we took a break from flipping pancakes and selling snacks, and simply had our youth pilgrims raise money for their pilgrimages and mission trips the way that adults do – explaining what they hope to experience, asking for donations, and sharing with donors how their money was spent?

Our “shareholders” fundraiser has quickly become a beloved and rewarding tradition on our youth pilgrimages and has given parishioners, who otherwise aren’t regularly involved with our young people, a way to invest in spiritual growth and build relationships across generations. Students draft an announcement to be read in church, as well as a letter to send to loved ones, explaining their upcoming voyage and how they hope to meet God. Money is collected with the weekly offering and thus begins a correspondence. Each shareholder receives a personal postcard from the trip, hand-written by a student, and is invited to a presentation where students share pictures and memories of their trip.

This summer in Ireland, our ten pilgrims would gather around an outdoor table and write to friends, family, and members of the church. Leaders helped them connect the dots between faces and names in our relatively large parish. “Oh, THAT’S the woman who arranges flowers! THAT’S the man who sits on the left and wears glasses!” On our return, I’ve been stopped by many a parishioner asking me to introduce them to the young person who wrote them “the most thoughtful letter!”

Sharing with our parish through postcards and presentations has given our students a new way to talk about their experience–to find a way to describe not only the sights they saw, but how they felt God moving as they traveled. Asking the parish to share with us through their financial gifts and their prayers has led parishioners of all walks of life on a journey of joyful and deepened relationship.

Rita Yoe serves as Youth Missioner at Christ Church, Georgetown, an Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. She has brought her students on WonderVoyages to rural Iowa; Canterbury, England; and this summer to Southeast Ireland for Pilgrimage.

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