It is probably safe to assume that all of the women’s groups in our churches—whether they are called guilds, ladies’ aids, or circles—have as their primary purpose the study of the Bible. But there is not the same degree of unanimity in the matter of obtaining money by means other than the offerings at the meetings. Some groups have put a ban on all types of fund-raising projects; while others
work feverishly from September till September on baked goods sales, pan cake suppers, bazaars, and socials to raise money for certain church needs. What are we to think about such activities? Do they have their place in our Bible study groups, or should they be abandoned?
Do They Pay?
We should note first of all that these projects are usually most inefficient. Any business that put as much time, effort, and material into adventure with as little financial return as is usually made by these activities would soon go bankrupt. Let us look at a baked goods sale as an example. On the one side of the ledger we have the committee’s efforts to secure the place of sale, the cost of the ingredients for the pecan pies or iced brownies, the time and gas or electricity used in the baking, the time and also the gas expended to deliver the goods, and the time involved in selling them. On the other side are the usually modest receipts, a great percentage of which probably came from the members themselves, who bought some other members’ donuts or brown bread. When you compare the two sides of the ledger, you realize that for all their good intentions, the women have probably been working for ten or fifteen cents an hour, and certainly their time is worth more than that. And if it should be true, as is sometimes remarked, that “some of the ladies don’t have anything to do anyway,” they could make more efficient use of their time by earning 50c or $1.00 an hour doing something else and giving that money directly to the church. If, instead of the sale, each member had contributed $1.00 to a special offering, the group would have made out just as well, and with a fraction of the effort.
What Is Our Motive?
Tends to Eclipse Bible Study
Another objection to these projects is that sometimes they detract from the main purpose of the group—the Bible study. With any organization a certain amount of business is inevitable, and each member should shoulder her responsibility for the proper functioning of the group. But when, as a result of all kinds of fund-raising activities, the business meetings tend to eclipse—partially, if not totally the study of God’s Word, we should take stock of the goals of the society.
The Scriptural Way to Give
But probably the most important question we can ask in this: matter is this: Should our churches, or groups within them, be in business? The principal concerns of the church are God’s Word and the work of mercy. These should also be the concerns of the women’s groups within the church, even though not in the same official capacity. Nowhere in either the Old or New Testament is there an example of the church being in business in order to raise money for buildings, for preaching the gospel, or for missions. Neither is there a command or admonition to that effect anywhere in Scripture. On the contrary, when Moses needed materials to build the first tabernacle, he did not appoint a ways and means committee but sim ply asked for voluntary contributions for this work of Jehovah. We then read that “The children of Israel brought a free will offering unto Jehovah; every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all the work, which Jehovah had commanded to be made by Moses” (Exodus 35:29). In fact, the response was so overwhelming that soon the workers told Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work” (Exodus 36:5), and Moses had to give the command to cease all contributions. Would that our pastors in this age of luxury could give such an order! Thus we should not seek to gain financial sup port for our church needs by the un scriptural means of “projects,” but by the Scriptural way of free will contributions.
Work We Should Do
However, women sometimes say they want to do something outside of the meetings. They add that such a wonderful feeling of unity is developed when the members work together toward a common goal. That is an admirable viewpoint, and there are many activities not involving fund-raising which can occupy their time. For example, I am sure that there is no shut-in, whether a member of the church or outside the fold, who ever received too many visits from members of the church. Many churches have contemplated working with the unchurched in their neighborhood, but have been compelled to give up the idea for want of man- or woman-power. Even if the church does not have such a program, individuals could have a regular Bible study with their neighbors. Those who like to sew or roll bandages could do so for our institutions of mercy or for our medical missionaries. Many of us enjoy a hymn sing, or a banquet followed by entertainment or inspiration. But these should be solely for Christian fellowship rather than as a means of financial gain. And finally—although this probably should have been first those who would be thus freed from “projects” could spend more time in preparation for the Bible study at the meetings. For it is only too evident that a large percentage of the women come to the meetings woefully unprepared to contribute anything or to take part in the discussion.
The question may then properly arise: How can we obtain the money we need for our new church building, for the missionary we are supporting, or for our new organ? The answer is: not by all kinds of fund-raising projects, but by prayerful, sacrificial, and systematic giving. We should sit down and prayerfully analyze our personal finances and the needs of the kingdom. And then give, give until it hurts, even if it may mean refraining from buying a new coat or car. Such sacrificial giving will not produce great results if it is only a sporadic, though generous, dipping into one’s pocket. Rather, it must be done with regularity, as Paul urged when he said to the Corinthians: “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper” (I Corinthians 16:2). When we are thus faithful in giving God his due, we shall see that he is faithful in keeping his promise to “open…the windows of heaven, and pour…out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). We shall be surprised to find that am pocketbooks are like the widow’s cruse of oil that never ran dry.
What We Can Do as Individuals
There may still be some of us who conscientiously feel that they are giving their utmost to God but who would like to utilize their spare time and willing hands to earn more money for the church. This we should do as individuals, but not under the auspices of a church group. We may sell greeting cards, our needlework, African violets, or baked goods and turn the proceeds over to the church. Or we may work out for a day, doing housekeeping or substitute teaching or nursing, and then give am day’s wage to the church. But these should be purely personal, individual activities, comparable to the daily bread winning of the husband, and should have no relationship to the ladies’ societies.
The Better Way Is More Profitable
There are in our own denomination women’s groups which have abandoned all money-making projects and found at the end of a year that they had gathered in, merely by offerings, more than what they had previously raised by their projects. And we can be sure that members of a church such as Park Street Church of Boston, which last year raised a quarter of a million dollars for missions alone, did not do so by means of pancake suppers or ice cream socials. Rather, it was accomplished by personal sacrifice and in faith that “he that supplieth seed to the sower and bread for food shall supply and multiply yom seed for sowing” (II Codnthians 9:10).