I posted most of this post last year, but the program is so effective i thought I would elaborate on it and share it again.

Hey folks, here is a way to raise additional funds at Christmas for some of those projects that you can’t afford.

When I was pastoring, every year we did a program we made up called The Living Christmas Tree.  The week of the first Sunday in Advent we put a 24 ft., fake but it looked real, Christmas tree in our worship center.  Then on the first Sunday night of Advent we gathered to hang ornaments that the children had made as well as begin the kick off of the Advent gifts. All of the gifts were designated for some mission project our church cared about.

Every Sunday through Advent we would begin light the tree from the bottom up based on the donations that week. The goal was by Christmas Eve night, after the offering was taken, all the lights on the tree would be lit. Every year we would raise an amount that equaled or exceeded an additional month of income.

Some highlights of the program:

  • September, I began looking for a major donor who would help start the offering off with a bang. This is important.  When you start a campaign with a major upswing you inspire the smaller donors to do their part.
  • October and November the children would make ornaments from the tree. We did this in Sunday School for the entire month of November. We encouraged the children to talk up the Living Christmas Tree to their parents.
  • October we decided how to divide the money from the tree. We would always include local and world missions in the list.
  • October we designed and printed the promotional material.
  • November we began promoting the offering. We suggested that every family give at least the same amount as they spent that year on Christmas presents. We really mad a big deal out of this.
  • The last Sunday in November the tree would be put up in the worship center.
  • The first Sunday night in Advent we decorated the tree and began to turn the lights on based on the amount of money that had been donated. (lights were left on the tree from the year before since there were well over a thousand lights).
  • Each Sunday just before the offering was taken we would take a separate Living Christmas Tree offering and would continue to turn on more lights as more money came in. It was always fun to watch the expressions on the children’s faces as the another string or two of lights appeared on tree.
  • During Advent we told the congregation through print and from the pulpit how much money for missions had been raised. Today, I would add email, Facebook, and text to the list.
  • Our only problem with the program was where to store the tree all year. A 24 ft tree isn’t easily stored so be sure to get one that can be stored in a reasonable space.
  • The biggest cost of the program was the initial cost of the tree and lights but after the first year you don’t have that expense.
  • The annual cost was just the printing of the promotional materials such as letterheads and posters.
  • One of the beautiful things about the campaign was it became a family affair. During the hanging of he ornaments the parents would leave their offering while the children hung their ornaments. We would have a couple of youth participate, one on the tall ladder and the other helping with the midpoint ornaments.
  • Many more people were helped due to the gifts since all of money went for things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to fund – the money went beyond the normal budget.
  • If I were pastoring today, I would video the first year and then during worship I show a short clip of excited children and the family each Sunday in worship as another form of promotion. People love seeing their children on video.

We found this program to be a anchor to our overall mission project. We did it for more than fifteen years and every year the amount of money contributed was larger than the year before.  I highly recommend it.  But one word of cautions – don’t designate any of the money for anything in the budget other than missions. The more of the money designated to outside causes, the more money you will raise, and the more people you will help.