Ideas for Advancing Hunger Ministries in the Congregation

(Gleaned from a survey in 2010-2011)


A hunger working group assigned by the Commission for Church in Society recently completed a survey of congregations in the synod asking for, among other things, their best, most creative, and most successful efforts to advance the hunger ministries of their congregation.  Included here is a summary of the results.  This resource will be updated as other ideas are shared and received.


            Special Events

            Souper Bowl of Caring ( – Super Bowl Sunday

  • Competitions seem especially appropriate for this day, between favorite college or professional teams, etc.
  • Immanuel Lutheran Church in Clinton provides a four week game/competition between the two sides of seats in the sanctuary.  Teams are the “pulpits” and the “fonts” (pulpit vs. baptismal font side).  There is a table in the back with a set of goal posts, a scoreboard, and two jars for donations, one for each side.  Each week represents a quarter in the game.  Totals of donations are posted each week indicating which side is ahead.  On the fourth Sunday (Super Bowl Day) people are invited to bring food items for the food pantry in addition to their donations for the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.
  • Calvary Lutheran Church in Sabula challenged the congregation to reach a certain level of donations to the Global Barnyard Project for Souper Bowl Sunday.  If that level was met, the president of the congregation agreed to dress up like a chicken and do the chicken dance.  He did when the goal was exceeded.
  • On the Saturday before the Super Bowl, people from St. John’s in Preston deliver grocery bags to all the houses in Preston and Miles complete with a note inviting people to place food items in the bag which will be picked up the following Saturday (the day before the Super Bowl).  All items collected are given to the local food pantry.  On Super Bowl Sunday, cash donations are also received and given to the food pantry.
  • Many congregations simply have youth or adults stand at the back of the church after worship with soup bowls to receive gifts to fight hunger through a local food pantry, the ELCA Hunger Appeal, or other agency or effort.  Others have a soup and sandwich lunch after worship on Super Bowl Sunday with the proceeds supporting hunger work.


Lent/Easter and Advent/Christmas are good seasons for special projects

  • Zion Lutheran Church in Clinton has distributed Easter eggs to children to be filled with money for world hunger and brought to worship on Easter Sunday.
  • Zion Lutheran Church in Muscatine has a Lenten ELCA Global Barnyard project for the Sunday School during Lent.  A large farm display with stuffed animals, etc., is placed near the entry way and banks are given to children to fill with money in order to purchase global barnyard animals.  Stories provided as bulletin inserts which tell how animals help families become more self-sufficient are used for children’s sermons at worship.  A week or two after Easter when all the banks are in, the children vote on which animals to buy.  Adults also purchase animals if they so desire.


Similarly, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Anamosa created a barnyard-scene bulletin board and invited those who “bought” an animal to put their name on a cut-out depiction of the animal to include in the scene.


  • During Advent, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Anamosa had a “well” project.  A well was placed as a visual aid in the church and people contributed to the cost of digging wells in Africa.
  • One year Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids collected pennies in coin boxes which were emptied into a wheelbarrow on Christmas Eve.  The wheelbarrow was too heavy to bring forward at the time of the offer.  Now the congregation uses “Quarter Tubes” – still heavy but add up to larger donations.
  • Some congregations use the idea of “fasting” during Lent to help raise funds.  One family had a tradition of going out for pizza and a movie on Friday nights.  During Lent they had pizza and watched a movie at home.  The money they saved was donated to the hunger appeal.
  • “Buck-a-Chick” fundraiser at Easter.  See the Spring/Summer 2011 ELCA Hunger Packet


  • Face Book has a feature called “Birthday/Holiday Wishes”.  You might challenge your “friends” to help purchase an animal from Global Barnyard or Heifer Project for your birthday.
  • Global Barnyard animals or other options from the “Good Gifts” catalog can make good presents for those “hard to buy for” people in your life.


  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in State Center sponsored a community “trick or treat” night in the church building complete with a free supper.  Donations were given to World Hunger.

Other ideas for use any time of the year.

  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in State Center places twelve laundry baskets in the back of the church into which people place food items for the food pantry.   (This idea would be especially timely in “Year B” of the lectionary cycle, late July, when the text is the feeding of the 5000 with 12 baskets left over – from John 6:1-21.)
  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Clinton had a member participate in RAGBRAI.  They created a map, received donations per mile, and “helped him get across the state” with proceeds used to support the ELCA Hunger Appeal.
  • “Noisy offerings” (loose change, and some bills, in a metal can) have been used in congregations for number of purposes including hunger relief.  A good way to involve even young children.
  • In the summer, some congregations have people with extra produce bring it to the church where it is made available to people in the congregation.  Donations are given to hunger projects.  Leftovers are taken to a food pantry or shelter.
  • Shepherd of the Cross Lutheran Church in Muscatine participated in a community wide project called “Plant an Extra Row” where gardeners were encouraged to plan an extra row of vegetables in order to donate the produce to the food pantry.  The congregation utilized space on their property to plant an entire garden for this purpose.  Grace Lutheran Church in Davenportalso has a community garden.
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids has a “Burger of the Week” Club.  Participants agree to donate the cost of one hamburger a week to the ELCA Hunger Appeal for a set period of time (usually the summer months of June, July, and August).  Each participant is given an envelope to keep track of donations through the weeks, and they are also asked to sign a “I belong to the Burger of the Week Club” flier which is then posted on a bulletin board at the church.  At the end participants (and others from the congregation) are treated to a burger bar-b-que where information about hunger issues is shared.  At this event, someone from the congregation wears a special “burger hat.”
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church in Preston participates in a community ecumenical project through Foods Resource Bank called “Sharing the Harvest.”  It involves ELCA, Catholic, Presbyterian, and United Methodist congregations from Preston, Miles, Sabula, and Springbrook.  Foods Resource Bank (FRB) unites faith-based and civic organizations, urban and farming communities and agribusiness to help feed the poorest communities around the world.  In the past five years, more than $88,000 dollars has been raised by our “Share the Harvest” project and we have high expectations for increasing the proceeds in our sixth year.  Fifteen national church relief organizations, including Lutheran World Relief, are facilitating partners with FRB.

100% of the revenue generated by FRB projects goes to people in need around the world.  In 2007, members of the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches in the Preston and Miles area began securing donated or rented farmland where local farmers could plant and harvest crops.  Local agribusinesses were invited to extend favorable prices or donate seed, fertilizer, fuel and use of machinery.  The participating churches and individuals provided resources to cover the remaining costs.

Each year the ecumenical committee has planned and invited people to participate in potluck dinners and Worship Services of Rogation, where the seed, soil and water are blessed, and Harvest Services of Thanksgiving, where people of the community express appreciation to God for these gifts.  For more information, go to: or contact the team at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Preston, Iowa (563) 689-5306.

  • Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames as a garden project with the Beloit Residential Treatment Center which is a part of Lutheran Services in Iowa.  Children from Beloit and adults from Bethesda work together in a garden which is located on Bethesda’s property and adjacent to Beloit.  Children learn about gardening and also benefit from eating the produce they grow.  The Iowa State University agriculture department also is a partner in this work.
  • Alternative Gift Fairs are popular in many congregations including St. Paul’s, Clinton; Gloria Dei, Cedar Rapids; Grace, Davenport; Gilbert, Gilbert; Good Shepherd, Knoxville; Bethlehem, Lost Nation; First, Cedar Rapids, Zion, Clinton; Zion, Iowa City; and St. Stephen’s, Cedar Rapids, St. John’s, Des Moines.  (An Alternative Gift Fair resource is available from the ELCA.)
  • Children could be invited to make ceramic bowls to share with members of the congregation, either to remind them of the needs of hungry people or into which they might place loose change to donate to world hunger.
  • Some congregations have an offering envelope for world hunger included monthly in the “offering envelope box”.
  • On given Sundays, all quarters in the offering plate support hunger causes, ie, food pantries, ELCA Hunger Appeal, etc.
  • One congregation every Sunday gives the quarters given in the offering to the ELCA Hunger appeal and the rest of the loose change to the local food pantry.





            Hunger Education Toolkits

30 Hour Famine   

A retreat for youth.  Provides educational activities, games, scavenger hunt for food which is given to local food pantry.  One year a large banner was made where finger prints were used to indicate the number of people who die of hunger in one hour or one day.   Used byImmanuel Lutheran Church, Mediapolis.   

Bread for the World –


Please submit other ideas for inclusion in this resource to Pastor Paul Ostrem at [email protected] .

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