Creative giving–and fundraising–in Iowa

By Steve Carpenter

Earlier this month I flew to Des Moines Iowa and spent five days visiting churches and
donors in the southeastern part of the state. While there I heard several remarkable stories of individual and congregational generosity and creativity.

Roger Farmer is a first generation Mennonite, a retired pastor, husband to the Crooked Creek Christian Camp (CCCC) Administrator (Mary Lou), and a camp volunteer. He gave me a tour of the camp which began in 1980 and sits on 300 acres in southeast Iowa. The camp is a cooperative effort between 17 local Mennonite churches, including three in Conservative Mennonite Conference. During the past year, many churches adopted one of the camp’s summer cabins and either renovated it or built a new one. In addition, Roger was on the committee which raised $400,000, including an $80,000 endowment, to build the beautiful Shepherd’s Inn lodge which has 6 rooms and very high ceilings, I’m guessing at least 18 feet high.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Shepherd’s Inn, where I stayed for one night.

Shepherds Inn at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, Iowa
Shepherds Inn at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, Iowa
Main level living room
Main level living room

CCCC also received an anonymous $500,000 gift to build an indoor activities center with a climbing wall, pictured below. The center was completed in 2007.

Climbing wall
Climbing wall

These stories of cooperation and generosity inspire me. But wait, there’s more.

First Mennonite Church of Iowa City is a very generous, mission minded, and creative congregation. They house and heavily subsidize the Home Ties Day Care for low-income, homeless and refugee children in their facilities. Recently, they renovated the child care center by adding a kitchen and an all-purpose playroom before renovating their own fellowship hall. They felt good about their priorities and even secured a $60,000 grant from federal stimulus funds for the day care renovations.

Pastor Bob Smith told me a remarkable story of how the church’s youth group raises money to attend MC USA’s bi-national assemblies. They park cars in the church’s parking lot during Iowa State’s home football games which take place just 2 blocks from the church. They typically make $70,000 per year this way, over 7 home games. In keeping with the church’s generous spirit, they tithe these funds, giving to the Youth Convention Planning Committee for scholarships, to local ministries and back to the congregation. Apart from this seven weekend windfall, the church also rents parking space during the week which generates enough income to pay for maintaining the parking lot and grounds. This is creative financing at its best.

The congregation is generous in many ways. Another example is their policy of paying full seminary tuition for all church members attending Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary or Eastern Mennonite Seminary and also offering a generous scholarship for undergraduate studies at a Mennonite college.

May these stories of God’s people doing ministry, encouraging faith formation, and strengthening Anabaptist identity, inspire us all to give generously and think creatively about ways we can help fund God’s mission.


Steve Carpenter, Development Director, MennoMedia