Pastor Randy Koppen believes God was tapping him on the shoulder. That led him to speak with the congregation of first United Methodist Church in Redwood Falls, where he serves as the minister, about the vision he had been given.
“I told them God wanted us as a church to give $150,000 to the community during the church’s 150th anniversary,” said Koppen.
The idea was initially presented to the church board, and Koppen said, he was not sure how the leadership would respond. After all, he had not been at the church in the role of its pastor for very long.
The response, Koppen said, was very positive, which led to the presentation of the idea to the congregation.
Koppen emphasized the fact that this was not his idea. It was something he was convinced God wanted the church to do for the community.
One year ago, a group within the church began looking at potential ways the church could serve through its giving, and as a result it came up with three things for the church to support – the local food shelf, the community parks and recreation program for upkeep of city parks and the childcare program in the local school district.
In addition, said Koppen, the church also opted to focus on ways it could benefit the community by improving its own facility, and as a result it also set up an opportunity for people to give to the church for the purchase of a new sound system. A third way for people to help the community was not in actual dollars but in time spent in volunteer service through the community.
“We asked people to add their name to a list and tell about the volunteer work they were doing,” said Koppen.
As the fundraising effort continued, it was determined to raise $50,000 for the three local organizations that had been selected by the church, $50,000 for the sound system and $50,000 through volunteer hours served by the congregation. Three cylinders were placed in the lobby of the church, with each cylinder representing one of the focus areas of the $150,000 goal.
“We filled the cylinders with different colors of sugar to show the congregation how God was working,” Koppen said.
During the worship service held on New Year’s Eve, Koppen had the opportunity to show the congregation the result of their efforts. As Koppen started filling each cylinder, the sugar overflowed, indicating that the congregation had not only met but it had exceeded the goal.
In fact, the goal was surpassed by 44 percent. The final total of giving was $216,447.06. Koppen added while the congregation gave to the three organizations it had selected, others also made additional donations to a list of more than 80 other organizations, agencies, programs and efforts on a local, national and international level. Whether it was collecting shoes, offering funds for kids to go to camp, funding the kids club program or sharing with missionaries, the church gave in abundance.
“When I first told the church the final result there was stunned silence,” said Koppen with a smile. “There is nothing greater than knowing what God has done through us.”
No, said Koppen, this is not about giving First United Methodist Church and its people a pat on the back. This is a demonstration of what God can do when people are willing to listen and answer the call he has for them.
Koppen said later he and his wife made sugar cookies for the church as a way to celebrate the outcome, although he said they did not actually use the sugar that had been in the cylinders.
Koppen said he has been focusing on encouraging the people at First united Methodist Church to place their focus outside of the walls of the church where they meet to serve the community and to never put limits on God. During its 150th anniversary the congregation has certainly learned that lesson.