The Alternative Giving Market
Download the 2017 Alternative Giving Market Brochure.
Programs Instill the Value of Giving and Gratitude — in All Ages
First they earn. Then they learn. With the Mission and Outreach Council’s Alternative Giving Market (AGM) approaching on Nov. 12, many of the Cathedral’s younger parishioners have been finding wayward coins and doing extra chores to boost their contributions to the AGM.
Their fundraising efforts are part of a teaching and empowerment mechanism offered by the children’s and youth ministries that converts funds raised into “KariAnn Coins”and “Bradley Bucks.”
Under this program, no matter the amount raised, each child earns a “coin,” each youth a “buck.” Come AGM, they’ll pay a visit to the featured non-profits to learn about each organization’s cause-based work before choosing which to support with their contribution.
“It’s not about the amount, but the act of giving,” says KariAnn Lessner, Minister for Children and Families. “All gifts, no matter how modest, have value and meaning.” Even a simple art project at Sunday School, for example, can be turned into a gift that brings love to the recipient as well as the giver.
“We want the children to be lifelong givers and lifelong learners, so we try to build giving and gratitude (giving) into all that we do,” she says. “We teach them to give from faith, not from fear or guilt that they’re not giving or doing enough.”
This form of learning by doing was part of the summer’s Vacation Bible School, where children assembled “Peace Packs” to give to refugee families arriving in Houston. Each parcel included a wooden serving spoon that had been decorated by a young participant to carry a simple greeting of welcome and love to flavor any dishes prepared using it.
Throughout the year, children have the opportunity to pack weekend meal bags for Bayou City Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit organization that provides a weekend’s worth of basic food for elementary school students in the Third Ward who receive subsidized meals during the week. The packing and sharing illustrates to children how food sustains and how giving food expresses love, Lessner says. Lessner also finds ways for children to give to animals by crafting pet toys for Friends for Life, the no-kill animal shelter.
“We are the church wherever we go,” Lessner says of the message behind all programs. “Giving is one way we thank God not with our words but with our actions by giving back from the abundance he has given us.”
Parents and teachers can help children better understand their personal gifts and ways to share them, she says. Encouraging and appreciating artwork as a gift is one example. Another, since children are closer to the ground, is recognizing their ability to find wayward coins. This skill is proving especially useful for the AGM exercise. Remarks Lessner, “God will take that faithful little bit and make it bigger.”
Our students in middle and high school are also learning to give with intent, says Jeremy Bradley, Minister for Youth and Young Adults. “They have good hearts. They just need ways to channel them.”
For youth, the AGM exercise “empowers the students to raise their own funds and make educated decisions about which groups to support – and why,” he says. Their “whys” differ, depending on what resonates on a personal level. Is it a group’s impact? A dire need met? An outcome affecting their peers or interests? Youth begin to ask – and answer – those questions for themselves.
Service work is one of the Youth Ministry’s pillars, during regularly scheduled service opportunities offered year-round as well as during summer mission trips in Houston (via the Cathedral Urban Service Experience), in the area, or abroad.
Bradley has seen how these experiences can lead to a “lightbulb of understanding” going off in their heads: “As they mature, so does their knowledge and belief that giving is a good thing, and that it is important to be aware of where and why they are giving,” he says. “The idea is that they take it in – the giving, the understanding, the seeing of impact on others and themselves – and it becomes a part of who they are. They want to do it.”
Some students go on to make independent pledges to the church, whether a financial or time commitment such as participation in the acolyte program, which operates directly with the students, not their parents.
Parents do have a direct role, however, in modeling giving and gratitude in their families. AGM committee co-chairs Jim Dougherty and Kristin Avery encourage “teaching the blessing of giving.”
“Traditionally, our Council has urged young people to participate in the Alternative Giving Market,” he says. “The experience of giving at an early age – even small gifts – can help set a good pattern for adulthood.”
Having representatives of the cause-based organizations on hand at AGM is a good opportunity for parishioners of any age to engage, ask questions, and find out how to assist them, Avery says. She encourages families to find organizations that resonate with them.
“Learning about the good works of AGM agencies can be eye-opening,” Dougherty says. “They help meet some really diverse needs in our community. Many of them operate with lean, limited budgets, and Hurricane Harvey’s devastation has increased the need for funding.”
This year, AGM has added a new category of support called “I Like Them All!” that will split a donation between all 13 agencies.
“We hope everyone can participate in this year’s Market. It’s a good way to survey the wide array of good work that’s being done. And, of course, it’s a quick and easy way to find and support the agencies you like the most – in person, online or by mail.”
The Alternative Giving Market, organized yearly by the Mission Outreach Council, will be in Reynolds Hall on the morning of Sunday, November 12, and the brochure will be available on the Cathedral website after the 12th through the end of the year.