Fill The Lunchbox!

by Pastor Paula Lawhead, Immanuel Lutheran in Bellevue

In May of this past year, our adults participated in a study at church on justice issues. One of the conversations brought up various issues in the Bellevue community. I don’t recall what all of them were, but I remember stating my curiosity about what kind of debt there might be for families around lunch costs.

This struck something in the group and one of the adults immediately said she would find out. And she did! She shared that the Bellevue school district had around $135K in unpaid school lunch balances. We realized quickly that our congregation would likely be unable to cover that big of a balance but we could still make an impact. We started asking for totals from individual schools starting with those geographically closest to Immanuel and worked with our Vitality Team to decide whether paying off one school’s debt or one grade (like graduating seniors) would make the most impact. We settled on schools first, hoping that this would continue as an ongoing effort of the church.

Before we got there, though, we needed to set up a campaign to start this new ministry. We had members of the congregation excited to take this on. The group thought it would be cool to decorate lunch boxes as a way to collect money and have fun with it. I found boxes and we set parameters for judging the lunchboxes. We had judges and got prizes (school supply boxes) for the winners in various categories such as most retro, most creative, and I tried. We collected money for 6 weeks and raised over $700 in change alone. Overall, the money that came in (including paper money) totaled nearly $1500.00. We decided to make this a permanent “fund” of the congregation so donations can continue to come in and be distributed throughout the year.

Immanuel member, Andy Gregory, put together a promo video for the 6-week campaign(WATCH HERE)and Ann Rued did announcements at church. You can see the biggest one here (WATCH AT 14:25)

When all the funds had been collected, we had enough to cover 100% of the debt at Avery Elementary so the first check went there. Another check went to Logan-Fontanelle that eliminated about 50% of their debt. The team then brainstormed ideas of putting together some additional resources for other organizations to utilize so they could duplicate what we had done. Andy and Brooke Gregory got those ideas and items down on paper and that is where we are at for the moment.

I attached pictures of the lunch boxes for you to see.

This was one of the most fun ministry “campaigns” I have done. Our congregation members were such fun and powerful catalysts in the creation of this ministry effort at Immanuel.

*This campaign is easily reproducible for churches and businesses! If anyone wants a quick overview and list of items used we are happy to share. Requests can come to Pastor Paula Lawhead at paula.lawhead[at]