There is a phone conversation that every youth minister has had; and it generally happens the same way:
Youth Minister: Hello, youth ministry office.
Benevolent Parishioner: Hi there. I have a (insert name of random item here) that I would like to give to the teen life program. Would the teens like it?
Youth Minister: Yes, yes they would. When can I bring the church van over to get it?
Deep in the collective unconscious of youth ministers worldwide there is an automatic response to free donations, a response born from years of low budgets:
“Yes, I would love your 200 pound pool table for our youth room. No worries, I’ll move it myself. A baby grand piano? We could totally use that. What? It has no keys and is out of tune? Crazy! I’ve always wanted to learn how to fix up old pianos. An old buffalo coin collection? Sounds like an awesome teaching tool!”
It doesn’t matter if someone has just offered to donate a brand new car or their collection of Michael W. Smith cassettes, we are going to accept that. After five years of youth ministry at the same parish, my office, youth room, and storage area looked like it was about to be on the next episode of “Hoarders.” My awesome collection over those five years included an old pinball machine that didn’t work, a slate pool table that was irreconcilably slanted, and a collection of various flavored coffee syrups (it was there when I began my career, and I am happy to say it was still there when I left).
For me, I just couldn’t say “no” to a donation, even when I probably should have. But, come on, when the head of the knitting club offers to make tiny butterflies for every one of your jaded, angry confirmation students to hand out on retreat – you aren’t going to say no to her. And I always figured by accepting the donation I basically did a double tithe – not only did I enable someone to give to the Church, I basically helped them clean out their garage as well. I know, pretty holy.
So this one goes out to all of you donation enablers, hoarder wannabes, and garage cleaners that we call youth ministers: keep doing what you are doing. Because of you the head of the knitting club feels involved, an elderly couple was able to support the youth program, and that piano – well you actually found someone to fix it up. Your closets may be cluttered, but allowing someone to donate is a great way to make them feel a part of youth ministry – and that is awesome.
Question: What is the most random donation you have ever received for your youth group?