On August 15, 2010, the Kids and Youth Faith Formation class of Hope United Methodist Church, South San Francisco, challenged their pastor, the Rev. Pamela L. Kurtz, to have her head shaved in worship on Halloween Sunday (Oct. 31) if they could raise $5,000 for a Heifer International "Ark" – 15 pairs of animals to provide a sustainable source of food and income for 30 families. Kurtz challenged back that at least $500 – or 10% – had to come from people with no connection to a faith community.
The challenge was on!
The money came in slowly at first, as members of the congregation gradually began to reach out beyond their usual circle of friends and family to co-workers, neighbors, and even their dentists' and doctors' offices.
Asking people to say whether they are part of a faith community was scary. The church folks acknowledged that they were afraid of being rejected, or of having people lash out at them because of whatever perception the people being questioned might have about Christians.
At the end of the 12-week period, the young people sent out E-vites and postal invitations to all those beyond Hope who had given toward the Ark, asking them to join in the Oct. 31 worship celebration of the "Heifer Challenge" and Heifer International.
On Sunday, October 31, the Kids and Youth class, under the guidance of their teacher, Marilyn Powers, and assistant, Glory Ariche, led the worship service celebrating the ministry of Heifer International. Their text was Ezekiel 34:1-14, the story of the dry bones of the Israelites brought back to life by God.
At the end of the service the word came from the church's financial secretary: Members of the church had raised $5,112 – $640 of it, from non-faith members of the community. Well more than 2/3 of the money raised had come from outside the Hope SSF faith community!
Cheers and applause broke out and the energy was electric. The kids and youth and their teacher were beyond pleased!
During the time of fellowship after the service a few people offered Rev. Kurtz an "out." "She gave us the challenge, but the challenge wasn't really about getting her hair cut," they said. "It was about reaching out to our friends and co-workers as a church to help raise money for a good cause. We met that real challenge."
Kurtz good-naturedly followed through, however, saying, "Your work was a challenge – but those who aren't part of a faith community need to see that everyone, including the pastor, is willing to follow through on the challenge." With that she sat down and the clippers went to work.
Reflecting on the challenge, congregation members reported that almost everyone they asked to contribute was pleased to see the church helping other people out, was able to learn about an organization they weren't aware of, and had a positive reaction to the organization and how it helps people. All the congregants acknowledged that their faith was challenged and that their courage to share with others grew.
The "before" and "after" haircut photos and the video of the pastor were taken by Ophelia Sampang, a member of the church.