The Giving Tree

Guest Post by Amanda Davis

We know you love to hear the stories of how other congregations are promoting Special Offerings in their churches! Today, Amanda Davis from Central Presbyterian Church in Terre Haute, IN, shares their recent success:

Henry Conner and his friends with their animalsThis new Christmas-giving opportunity for our church arose at our October Mission Committee meeting, when Renee Newton said, “Henry Conner wants to give animals.” In the past, we had supported the Heifer Project, but this time we sought a way to do something similar through the PC(USA).  We received a giving catalog for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Renee and I planned the project in keeping with  Central’s Christmas tradition of placing a “giving tree” in the fellowship hall.

Church members could then take these giving requests off the tree and return them with a contribution. At the December Parent Night Out, children, youth, and adults made the animals that would go on the tree: mules, goats, chickens, and fish. Then, when the congregation came to church on that first Sunday in December, our tree was filled with animals, just waiting for the families to select them. Every animal on the “giving tree” had an envelope taped to its back, and those who decided to make gifts of animals placed their checks or money in the envelope and returned the animal to the church office. Returned animals had the donors’ names added to them and were placed on a tree poster taped to one of the moveable walls in the fellowship hall. 

Located beside the tree – from which people selected mules, goats, chickens, or fish – was information about how our gifts could be used. These descriptions emphasized how our gifts of these animals could be life-changing occurrences for needy people in the world. Renee and I were asked frequently about what countries or continents our gifts would go to. In reading the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s catalog, we found that they would go to nations on many continents – the two Americas, Africa and Asia. To quote the catalog, “Gifts are distributed to share Christ’s love where needed in the world.” The following are some specifics about how our gifts of animals would make a difference for people in all parts of the world. 

  • One mule. Transportation of fruits, vegetables, and grains to market can be a challenge for farmers. Providing a mule to a farmer who depends on the sale of crops can help feed his family. 
  • A pair of goats. For hundreds of years, goats have been a generous source of milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. These valuable foods offer nutrition to those who need it most. The gift of a pair of goats is one that will keep providing. 
  • A family of chickens.  A high-producing chicken can lay one egg almost every day. Gifts of chickens could provide a family with an ongoing source of food and nourishment. 
  • A school of fish. Giving a South African family 225 tilapia fingerlings could be the start of a flourishing fish farm that provides an ongoing source of protein nutrition. 

Deciding on the gift of a particular animal also gave everyone opportunities to do some mathematics.   Yea!!!  Here are some math questions which arose.

  • If 225 tilapia fingerlings could be purchased for $15 (a real bargain!), then how many could be purchased for $30?
  • If a pair of goats costs $180, then what portion of a goat would a donation of $60 purchase?
  • If one mule costs $500, then how much would one-tenth share of a mule cost? (expensive, but worth it) 

We are happy to report that the church raised a total of $1265 in animal gifts for the 2015-16 Christmas Season:

  • 10 schools of 225 tilapia fingerlings for $150
  • 13 families of chickens for a total of $325
  • 3 pairs of goats for a total of $540, and 
  • 1/2 of a mule for a total of $250

Many thanks to all who contributed – we are so glad to hear about your successful Giving Tree project! Do you have a story to share? Email us at

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