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‘Giving Wall’ helps Texas congregation scale new heights in generosity

For churches like First Presbyterian of Georgetown, Presbyterian Giving Catalog releases Christmas edition just in time for alternative gift fairs and campaigns

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Advent and Christmas give members and friends at First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown, Texas, an opportunity to actively respond to God’s love by purchasing gifts offered through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — While Georgetown, Texas, may be best known as home to the famous “Christmas Stroll,” there’s no place in town Christina Bondesen would rather be at Christmas than at Georgetown’s First Presbyterian Church.

That’s home for her.

“Advent and Christmas at First Presbyterian give our members — young and old — an opportunity to actively respond to God’s love for us by giving to others,” she said.

It was the congregation’s commitment to embodying Christ’s love at Christmas by caring for its neighbors near and far that led Bondesen, who serves as the church’s office manager, and the Mission Committee, chaired by Robert Cravens, to choose the Presbyterian Giving Catalog as the foundation for the church’s Advent mission offering last year.

The increasingly popular Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that provide real and positive impact around the world, including agricultural tools and training, livestock, aid kits, access to clean water and help to end hunger. For ease of use, the Giving Catalog is available both in print and online, in English, Spanish and Korean.

For congregations which may be planning an alternative Christmas marketplace, alternative gift campaign or other congregational offering for the 2023 season, a special Christmas edition of the 2023-2024 Giving Catalog started mailing on Monday, October 16.

The Presbyterian Giving Catalog’s Holiday Giving Guide is now in the mail and available online.

“Our committee supported the Giving Catalog because it offered a variety of items at different price points that would appeal to a larger number of people,” said Bondesen. “The church’s communications director, Jaime Cowan, and I developed the idea of a dimensional paper Christmas tree that would hang from the church’s newly created ‘Giving Wall’ with ‘ornaments’ to represent the gifts given through the Catalog.”

The new 2023 – 2024 Giving Catalog offers a total of 43 items — large, small and in between ­— to fit everyone’s missional interests and budget.

By far the Giving Catalog’s most popular gifts are the family of chickens, sewing machine, garden well, educate a child, farming tools, piglet, pair of goats, kitchen kit, fishing kit and jerry cans. To help congregations and individuals in making their choice, the Giving Catalog’s order form highlights the “Top $50 and under gifts.”

One of this year’s new items is “Community Sustainability,” available in $25 increments, a gift that offers a reliable source of income that can have a profound impact on families and communities. The new Giving Catalog also features an I Spy Activity and Resources and Ornament Templates and Instructions, something that may come in handy as First Presbyterian considers its plans for Christmas 2023.

Bondesen explained that since the church couldn’t offer all of the items listed in the Giving Catalog, they instead chose a selection in various categories and dollar amounts to make them affordable and accessible to all, especially the church’s children.

Churches including First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown, Texas, have found fun ways for people big and small to purchase gifts through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. (Contributed photo)

“We made a postcard using the information found on the Presbyterian Giving Catalog website to give our members information about each item, and we made a paper ornament using a clip-art representing that item,” she said. “Our members could then select which items they wished to purchase, complete the back of the postcard, place it in the red metal box with their payment, and put an ornament on the tree. It was a fun, colorful, ‘new’ way to use our ‘Giving Wall’ and the committee was very happy with the results.”

Bondesen said that the committee was overjoyed by the church’s generosity, which she attributes in large part to the ways in which the stories behind each Giving Catalog gift are “meaningful and relatable.”

“It was overwhelmingly clear that mission is very important to our congregants and, as the dominant generation changes, it becomes clearer that the younger generations are more about wanting to see their support make real changes instead of just writing a check,” she said. “They want to know where their money is going and how it is being used.”

Lent is another season when Presbyterians turn to creative giving ideas found in the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. (Contributed photo)

Because the Christmas offering was so well received, the church later adapted the same concept for the Lenten season using eggs instead of ornaments and a large Easter basket instead of a Christmas tree.

“I am proud as both a church and a staff member that we have such a generous congregation,” Bondesen said, “and I look forward to offering as many giving opportunities as possible as we use our time, money and talents to be God’s hands and feet in the world.”

The Rev. Wilson Kennedy, associate director for Special Offerings and Appeals for the PC(USA), said that churches like First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown are leading a creative and prophetic witness in their community, across Mission Presbytery, throughout the nation and around the globe through their gifts to the Presbyterian Giving Catalog.

At First Presbyterian Church in Georgetown, Texas, giving stretches from wall to wall. (Contributed photo)

“They are doing this by making the Giving Catalog their own: finding opportunities to contribute to God’s ministry and contextualize it for their congregation,” he said. “This is exactly what Christ taught us when he tells the disciples to go make disciples of all nations, to enliven Christ’s reign of justice, love, and peace in any way you can — to be Christ’s continuing ministry in the world through whatever means available to the community; that is to be the church together!”

For further information on hosting an alternative giving market with the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, click here.

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