Forest Hill Church's 'Big Give' gives back

On March 29, every attendee at Forest Hill Church in Cleveland Heights received an unexpected gift--a red envelope containing a fifty dollar bill. Pastor John Lentz, with the support of the church’s governing body, took a risk and passed out $15,000 of church funds. Thus began “The Big Give.”

The pastor reassured everyone that they could do whatever they wished with the money: spend it, save it, pocket it and walk away. The church would not track how the money was used. Then Lentz offered a challenge. He read from the Bible Jesus’ parable of the talents, in which a master gives money to his servants in the hope of seeing a return on his investments. Pastor Lentz encouraged each person to be creative, have fun, and use his own talents to multiply the $50 offering over the next two months. 

A wide array of fundraising activities ensued including a day-long flea market and festival, neighborhood garage sales, and a 5K run at Forest Hill Park. The Heights community responded, purchasing landscaping and babysitting services, homemade hot fudge sauce, and bird feeders. By the end of the summer, $27,800 was returned to the church. 

Proceeds from the Big Give will support several local, regional and global mission projects, including the Cleveland Interfaith Hospitality Network, a local non profit serving people experiencing homelessness; E-City, an innovative charter school program partnering with the Cleveland Municipal School District; Montreat, a national conference and retreat center of the Presbyterian church located in Virginia; and a small Presbyterian church in Aduhima, Ghana that needs a new roof. 

Forest Hill Church is now accepting proposals for local, faith based projects with a sustainability component for the undesignated funds from the Big Give. For more information and to see photos of the Big Give, see

Sue Lafizerty is a member of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian. 

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Volume 2, Issue 12, Posted 10:31 AM, 11.17.2009