When a church finds an unusual way to be outrageously generous, people take notice.
In early October, Sycamore Creek Church in Pickerington, Ohio, began an outpouring of kindness when it did something a little unusual with its three services one Sunday. Rather than taking up its usual offering, Lead Pastor Steve Markle asked the church of about 600 attendees to drop cash in the offering bucket to tip a pizza delivery driver.
During the third service, the staff ordered a single $6 pizza, asked the driver to come on stage, and presented the woman, Natasha, with the money—more than $1,000.
“The church was very excited about the idea of doing something generous together like that,” Markle says. “They really got behind the idea.”
When Markle handed Natasha the tip on stage in front of the church, she wept.
They wouldn’t learn why until later.
“Just that morning she had received an eviction notice on her apartment, and she is a single mom with a 3-year-old son,” Markle says. “She didn't know what she was going to do. The timing of that gift was so perfect for her in her life.”
The circumstances made it clear that God had orchestrated the entire thing.
“She wasn't the one the owner [of the pizzeria] had assigned to do the delivery. That person got scared by the idea of coming on stage and didn't want to do it, so Natasha, the assistant manager, made the delivery.”
But that’s just the beginning of the story. After Sycamore Creek posted a video of Natasha receiving the tip to YouTube so its first- and second-service people could see, word got out. People around the country heard about the gesture and were moved to generosity themselves.
“A week went by and all of a sudden somebody in the national media got a hold of it and it kind of went viral after that,” Markle says. “We've gotten all kinds of emails from churches that were inspired by it and have done something similar or are using the story to teach about generosity. It’s been pretty neat to see how God has used this.”
The church, which has offered Financial Peace University (FPU) classes, has also received offerings from people around the country so the church could bless others. Markle says they immediately passed the money on to those in need, including the relative of a church member whose apartment burned down.
The congregation learned a powerful lesson in generosity through the pizza tip experience, but it taught Markle a little something too.
“Sometimes as pastors, we can be very reluctant to be generous like this because we’re afraid of it taking away from the general offering and hurting the church finances,” he says. “I can tend to be one of these types of pastors. But God is growing my faith through this, and I am realizing how He blesses us even greater when we are generous as leaders.”