A single dollar may not seem like much.
But for members of Mount Pleasant Christian Church, the power of a dollar has been amplified to do amazing things in the community. By giving just one dollar more each week of tithing, the congregation has been able to aid ailing families when they needed it most.
The funds have helped people struggling with diseases or overwhelming medical costs, pay their mortgage or buy equipment that they otherwise would not have.
For the family of a U.S. Marine who lost their home to a fire in November, the church replaced lost clothes, appliances and assisted with rent.
The Change for a Dollar program has become a weekly tradition at Mount Pleasant, and the church has given more than $660,000 in assistance specifically through that program since starting in mid-2015.
The idea is to show that small individual efforts, when multiplied throughout a church community, can have a monumental impact, said Chris Philbeck, senior pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church.
“In 38 years of being a pastor, I’ve never been involved with anything that has so energized the church so immediately and provided such a moment every week like Change for a Dollar does,” Philbeck said.
More than 140 families have been helped through the Mount Pleasant program. The stories are all unique, though each shares a thread of people in dire need of help.
Greenwood resident Katie Calvert was involved in a serious car accident in July after she lost control of her car on a flooded roadway. She suffered head trauma, a shattered jaw and other injuries. As Calvert continued to recover from her injuries, Change for a Dollar funds went toward the cost of rehabilitation treatment.
Ray and Kay Rouse’s rural Jennings County home was burglarized and set on fire in the summer. Through the church, they were able to get funds to help with an expansion to their daughter’s home, where they could live.
Funds from the collection have helped the Hollinger family of Sparta, Michigan, whose 9-year-old daughter Lyndi was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease at age 2, and who is part of an experimental drug study to keep her kidneys functioning.
Community service has been a foundational value of Mount Pleasant throughout its history, and one of their core missions is to serve people both “across the street and around the world,” Philbeck said.
Different ministries work with children, members of the congregation experiencing problems in their lives and those in need of food and clothing, among many other things. Each spring, people gather at the church to pack more than 400,000 meals for the hungry around the world.
People would regularly come to Philbeck when they needed help with something, be it medical costs, an unexpected bill or another financial issue they were having.
“Over the years, whenever I’d become aware of a specific opportunity to help somebody out, it would not be uncommon for people to notice that I’d set out plastic jars on a stand up front,” Philbeck said. “At the end of the service, I’d talk about the need, and would say when we dismiss, come up and drop a dollar in the jar.”
These calls-to-action were done sporadically at Mount Pleasant, whenever church leaders thought they could help someone else out. But when Philbeck was serving on a ministerial board with other pastors, he heard about a church doing a similar giving event every week.
The idea was simple: Members were asked to give one additional dollar for each member of their family, on top of what they normally would give. So a family of four would contribute an extra $4 into the tithes they had already planned to give.
That extra money was separated out into its own fund, and used for specific cases to help the needy.
Philbeck took those details and shared it with other Mount Pleasant leaders. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea.
On July 5, 2015, the Change for a Dollar program was introduced to the congregation. People could either fill out a form or go online to nominate someone to receive aid. The nominee didn’t have to belong to Mount Pleasant, or even live in Johnson County. If someone had a good cause helping others around the world, they could submit it for consideration.
“Anyone can nominate anyone. That’s one of the great things about this,” said Heidi Wright, service coordinator for the church.
A church committee led by Wright formed to determine the weekly recipients. Wright pools all of the nominations submitted during a month into one document, with names and other identifying information removed.
That document is given to the committee members — church staff members, as well as a rotating selection of church members and elders. They go through each submission and decide who will receive help each week.
“I get to be the one to call and let people know that they’ve been chosen as recipients. It’s a pretty cool part of my job, and difficult at the same time. There are so many needs, you want to be able to meet them all,” Wright said.
The money from the Change for a Dollar fund does not go directly to the recipient; rather, the church works with them to find out what the funds will go towards, and pays those bills directly.
“There have been so many times when we call someone and they say, ‘Just yesterday, my husband and I were wondering how we were going to pay this bill or that bill.’ It’s constantly stories like that,” Wright said.
The stories of each recipient are made into videos that are shared on the church’s social media outlets, as well as on its website.
Often, the recipient family will come to Mount Pleasant to join in the worship service on the day their story is told, even if they don’t belong to the church. Many do not want any attention, but just want to pray with the people who have helped them, Philbeck said.
Some people do come to the front of the church so an announcement can be made.
“They come down and we surround them and pray all around them. That’s been a moving experience,” Philbeck said.
The Change for a Dollar program has also had a ripple effect. One member gave a one-time gift of $36,000 to go towards the program.
As the stories of people needing help have circulated in the church community, members who work in construction, car repair or other service industries have offered to do the work needed at a discount or no cost at all, Philbeck said.
“That didn’t keep us from using the money, because there was always a need. But we let it stretch the money farther,” he said.
Change for a Dollar has become woven into the fabric of Mount Pleasant and its congregation. People often comment that they look forward to the updates every week, and contributing to these important causes here in central Indiana and elsewhere is the embodiment of their faith, Philbeck said.
The church community has surpassed the potential they envisioned at first, he said. That makes the future even more exciting.
“I can’t wait until the weekend when I can say that $1 million has been given to Change for a Dollar. Because it is so simple — just a dollar,” Philbeck said.