ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Mission Network) — As a young mother in Dixon, Ill., Odela Shank helped her children raise money for mission. The young ones tended chickens, gathered eggs and ran errands to collect pennies, nickels and dimes, which they dropped into tin banks shaped like globes.
The Shank children loved the process, eagerly anticipating the day when they could present their banks to Science Ridge Mennonite Church to be sent to a Mennonite mission agency.
“They were saving money for Jesus,” Shank remembered. “They were doing something special.”
Although generations of children clinked coins into the metal orbs, learning the joy of generosity while helping mission workers overseas and around the corner, the banks disappeared from most Mennonite church programs in recent decades.
This spring, the banks are coming back.
Mennonite Mission Network is reintroducing globe-shaped mission banks to Mennonite Church USA congregations. Rather than the traditional tin models, the 2006 banks are made from semi-opaque plastic which will allow children to track the contents within their banks as the pile of coins grows.
The mission banks will arrive with teaching tools – packets of short exercises, information, stories and experiential lessons that can fit into any home, Sunday school, Bible school, children’s story or worship service. Using stories from both testaments, the tools will help children learn about the value of partnership, sharing and giving generously of time, talents and income, while connecting to today’s mission ministries.
While previous programs sent the banks to churches, which could pass them out and collect them each year, the new banks will belong to the children. Each child between the ages of 5 and 12 (kindergarten through sixth grade) in a Mennonite Church USA congregation will receive a new globe bank of his or her own, compliments of the Mission Network, when the congregation places an order. Each new year, the next wave of 5-year-olds will receive their banks and learn more about Jesus while helping spread God’s word and works.
Rachel Fisher of Goshen, Ind., recalls her childhood at Wellman (Iowa) Mennonite Church. Each year, children would turn in their banks and report how they earned money for mission. Some bought, raised and sold chickens. Others grew and sold plants or vegetables. One of her brothers, Fisher said, pulled weeds for another brother, earning a quarter for his jar.
“The kids knew what it was for,” Fisher said. “It was the idea of earning money, handling it and then giving it away.”
Leaders at First Mennonite Church in Middlebury, Ind., pulled the church’s old banks from storage for a recent centennial celebration. Pastor Linford Martin expects the new banks to get the children as excited as the old models did.
“I look forward to it as a way to get children involved, to get anyone involved, but especially people who can have something to set on a table at home,” Martin said.
“It means they’re reminded, again, of missions.”
Mary Bustos of Goshen, Ind., who for years helped children at her church in Davenport, Iowa, now Casa de Oracion Emanuel, with their banks, agreed with Martin. “Kids get excited about everything new,” she said. “But they are good even for grown-ups.”
In the early 20th century, many congregations used quarter projects to raise money for missions. Individuals within a group each would begin with a quarter, then invest that quarter in various projects for a set amount of time and offer the proceeds to the mission board.
Congregations received missions savings boxes in 1925 and the first Mennonite mission globe banks arrived at churches in 1950. That first year, the mission agency distributed more than 20,000 banks across the United States, raising more than $26,000 toward mission.
All Mennonite Church USA congregations will receive letters inviting them to order the new banks for their children by filling out a form. Congregations that respond by April 15 will pay only shipping costs. Responses received after April 15 will be charged $4.95 per bank, plus shipping costs. The banks will be sent to congregations in mid-May.
For more information, visit www.mennonitemission.net/Resources/MissionBanks or contact Sandy Miller, Mission Network mission resources coordinator, at (574) 523-3003 or SandyM@MennoniteMission.net.