My Context with Scott Tinman from Findlay, Ohio

YouthMin is highlighting some student ministers and what makes their student ministries unique.  We’ve asked some folks from our community to share something that is unique to their ministry.  It may be a culture, an event, a fundraiser, or even a lesson series.  Check out this series of posts for some inspiration.
Annual Chili/Soup Cook-off & Auction Fundraiser
Every summer we as a Student Ministry have either a conference or camp that we attend. We also have summer missions trips, and we need to help fundraise money for students to be a part of these life-changing experiences. A few years ago, we began looking at how we do fundraisers and landed on this annual event that our church looks forward to every year. Unlike other fundraisers like spaghetti dinners, pancake feeds and others that have high prep and lots of overhead costs, this one has served us well in that the overhead costs are minimal and there is not a crazy amount of prep needed. It also involves others from within your church to help your Student Ministry raise money for your summer trips.
Here is what we do:
Pick out a date on the calendar that works well for everyone. 
We have typically done it as a lunch after the last service of the morning because you have a captured audience. Many people are probably going out for lunch anyway so why not provide it for them. In our context, we have 3 services in the morning and we have actually started the Chili/Soup cook-off portion during our 3rd service to capture those that attend 2nd service and continue following our 3rd service. You can probably do this another day but I don’t think you will get the same amount of engagement.
Promote the event and ask for people to donate a crock-pot of soup or chili to participate in the cook-off.
Many people sign up to be part of this and enter their famous recipe. Others just want to help by donating food. There is no prep for you to do for cooking, no costs for food, and people are able to have a good lunch the day of the event. I also ask people who would like to donate desserts for our Dessert Table…because you can’t have a church meal without dessert right?
Determine the winner and receive donations for the fundraiser
The winner of the cook-off has nothing to do with how good the chili or soup is it is. Instead, it is determined by donations received. We put glass mason jars in front of each chili or soup and the winner is the one that brings in the most amount of donations. People pick the winner with the money that they donate. Instead of charging a certain amount per person, have them donate to the soup or chili that they liked the most. During our auction, we have people count and crown the Soup/Chili Cook-off winner and we announce it at the end of the auction. We have a prize that we give the winner with “Chili/Soup Cook-off Winner 20xx” on it. On the dessert table, we just have a jar out for donations and we do not have a Dessert Bake-off (although you could probably do the same with that if you wanted).
Prep needed for the Chili/Soup Cook-off
  • Cups/Bowls, paper products and spoons – we have used the little 3 oz cups so that people can try different entries and they can go back for more that they like.
  • Students to help serve the chili or soup – I ask students who are attending this events if they want to earn money for their trip they need to participate in some way. This also helps people from the congregation to see who the students are that they are supporting.
We have done this a few different ways, but what has worked the best for us is to have some items for “Silent Auction” bidding during the Cook-off and then a few “Big Items” that we do as a Live Auction. We ask students to get donations from local businesses, and we also ask people from within the church that might have services that can be auctioned. For students, it might be babysitting hours, lawn mowing or yard work/cleaning house hours. For some adults, we have received contractors that donate “handyman” hours, painters labor hours, dentists that donate teeth-whitening, and accountants that donate tax prep services. These can be put on a Silent Auction Table and then if we get sporting event tickets or other big donation items, we do a live auction at the end of the cook-off.
This has been a great fundraiser for our Student Ministry, and one that our congregation looks forward to each year. We have tweaked how we do it from year to year as we think of new ways to make it more efficient. If you have questions about any of this feel free to send me an email at Each year in our context we have been able to raise between $6,000 – $8,000 for our summer trips.

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