Our churches across North America are becoming increasingly diverse. Gone are the days when local events are the only things a pastor needs to preach about. The concerns of today’s parishioners have become increasingly global as many have migrated from areas beyond this country’s borders. Along with their concerns going abroad, often their tithe and offering dollars do too. Burdened with calls from family members and friends, some members feel obligated to send money back home, money they would be expected to place in the collection plates of the local church they attend on a regular basis.

“A dollar here is worth so much back home,” stated one member. “There are so many people who need help, and I feel a need to help them. I just can’t do both—return tithe here and help back home—so I send the money back home.”

Prior to 2015 I had no idea this was happening in our churches. As a pastor I am aware of the giving habits of my members, and I’d come to the conclusion that people just didn’t want to give. So I preached more on the importance of giving. However, upon deeper investigation, I realized that they were giving—just not to their local church. So I asked God, What can we do to help people give locally, while helping them to give abroad as well?

To be sure, our regularly scheduled 13th Sabbath offering is a great way of giving abroad, but I noticed that my members often felt out of touch with the process. While 13th Sabbath offering does a great job at furthering our mission as a global church, I rarely hear testimonies of how the initiative has impacted the extended families of our local members the way our members do when they give directly.

God’s answer: The Philadelphia Blessing Campaign

First we identified all the countries represented by our members, a total of about 13. We included those who are incarcerated here in America on the list, and we decided we would allow for the members to contribute each week throughout the quarter and on the 13th Sabbath, at the close of our special service, we would draw one of the areas from a bucket. The country selected would then receive the collection.

You may be wondering if we are randomly sending hundreds of dollars to other countries. The answer is no. Following the selection of the country, the individuals who represent the country have one quarter to determine a cause within the country, and put together a presentation to share with the congregation highlighting, among other things, why the ministry or group was selected.

You may also be wondering if this new initiative has caused a decrease in our 13th Sabbath contributions. The answer again is no. Our giving has remained steady.

Here are some results from the first year of PBC:

  • We have collected over $2,000.
  • Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Kenya and a total of eight inmates have been selected.
  • NAMI, Bread Basket Ministries and a scholarship for a school have been amongst the initial recipients.
  • At the end of our first year we saw a major increase in tithe for the church.

Those from other countries no longer feel conflicted about giving locally because they know their church family will continue to support their family abroad.

This experience has been exciting! The PBC has truly brought our church closer together. It also brings us closer to the areas and individuals our members are concerned about through the quarterly presentations, and it brings those individuals closer to our church as the members share the news that our church has decided to bless them. We are a family —a local family helping our extended family.

Keith Hackle, Jr., pastors the Philadelphia church in Des Moines, Iowa.