When members of the NMI team heard about a pie ministry taking place at the Church of the Nazarene in Eldon, Missouri, our curiosity was piqued. When we learned that the proceeds from the sale of the pies went toward missions, we knew we had to learn more.
After placing an order for a couple of pies with a member of the General Secretary’s Office team, we called the church, which averages 150 in Sunday morning worship attendance. Following a conversation with the pastor, we thought the Eldon Church’s mission passion might motivate other churches to think creatively about how they could increase their giving by implementing abilities within their faith communities.
“We were inspired by the First Nazarene Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri,” says Pastor Jerry Frye. “They were doing it several years before we began. We started in 2000. We started out small and have grown as the need for pies has risen.”
And risen it has, before they even made their first pie this fall, the Eldon Church had orders for 4,850 apple pies. Pastor Frye said the church made 6,047 pies this fall.
“We make apple pies in September and more than 1,000 cherry pies in January. We currently sell the apple pies for $7 or 6 for $35. The pie project is a huge commitment for our people, and it goes on for two weeks when we make apple pies each September.”
Mission Pie Money
As mentioned earlier, the money goes for missions at home and abroad. Following are some of the ways that Pastor Frye says the “pie money” has been used:
- Bought property for church buildings on the mission fields
- Built church buildings
- Started church plants in new areas on the mission field, providing salary for pastors and supplies
- Provided water to villages—125 homes where the villagers were drinking out of polluted ponds
- Provided surgery and glasses for a national pastor’s wife and their children, who were going blind
- Paid school bills for some students in the Quito, Ecuador, Bible school
- Supported a church plant on our district
- Provided funds for a new missions work in Pohnpei with Mission Corps volunteer missionaries, Jamie and Michael Askew
- Supported a Haitian pastor after the earthquake
- Gave $5,000 for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries hunger relief fund
- Gave $2,500 to one of the members of the 24/7 Caribbean Ministry this past summer
- Provided funds for back-to-school clothing in our community
- Helped church members go on mission trips (paying a portion of their costs and paying for all building supplies on the mission field)
- Provided funds for a district missions project on our camp grounds
- Provided funds for “180” anti-abortion project in Central Missouri
Pastor Frye also related that some of the church’s teens held a Vacation Bible School for the children of a remote village outside Puyo, Ecuador. The children asked for Coca-Cola and bread. Money from the pie ministry was used to purchase the requested items, and the teens took them to the village on the last day. As the youth distributed the food and beverages, they realized that they were running low and saw that many children still waited in line. Pastor Frye said with a catch in his voice, “They prayed, and God allowed the little bit they had left to meet the need.” The teens’ faith was evident when they told him, “Pastor, He has done it again! Just like He did with the loaves and fishes.”
How Eldon Does It
One of the aspects of this ministry that stood out was the organization. Pastor Frye explained the process from ordering the ingredients to promoting the sale of the pies.
“We order all the ingredients; sometimes we buy them at cost,” says Pastor Frye. “The Mennonites search for the best price on flour and sugar and sell it to us at a reasonable cost. Our local grocer sells us the Crisco (six 6-pound cans per case, 32+ cases) at his cost.”
The cherries and apples come from Michigan, and the pans and other containers are shipped from St. Louis. On occasion, a supplier will donate a portion of the ingredients when they learn how the money from the pies will be used.
When asked about personnel in the pie-making endeavor, Pastor Frye explains, “Some workers work the same station each time; others, like myself, float. I haven’t learned to crimp yet; some of our best crimpers are men.”
Here is a list of stations:
- Bottom crush rollers (“The Holy Rollers”)
- The persons who put the apples, butter, cinnamon into the pie
- The top crust rollers (“The Upper Crust”)
- Those who put the sugar on top of the pies and put them into the containers
- The folks who box the pies
“It takes 35-43 workers to make 750-850 pies on a Saturday,” says Frye. “We begin around 8:15 a.m. and finish around 1:30 p.m.”
To promote the sale of the pies, the Church announces it in the paper, and church members also sell to their friends. Members take the sign-up lists to schools, doctor’s offices, highway patrol headquarters, fitness centers, anywhere people gather. Frye says proudly, “Once people try the pies, they sell themselves.”
Jolyn Stark, a member of the General Secretary’s Office team, was so captivated with Pastor Frye’s explanation of the pie ministry that she and her husband drove approximately 300 miles round-trip to see the Eldon Church in action and to take photos.
“I think what impressed me was that here is a group of people who are very committed to serving the global body of Christ and have found a way to do it,” says Jolyn. “Many are senior saints (some 80s and 90s) who donate many hours of time—and, I’m sure, money—in a way to serve so that others can go on mission trips and provide for needs that arise in many areas. I didn’t hear any grumbling…all served willingly, even when they were tired and still had 100 pies to make that day. It was inspiring to see so many—from young people (elementary age) to older folks—working together, so that others could go on the mission trips to serve in areas far from central Missouri.”
“Our plan is to give every penny we make away each year,” explains the pastor. “We do, however, save back enough for supplies so we can pay cash for them up front. Presently, that is between $10,000-11,000. We usually clear about $3 a pie, allowing us to raise $15,000+ for missions in 15 days. [This may be] peanuts to some, but the benefits are seen far beyond the dollars raised, in fellowship, ownership and being worn out for Jesus. When I showed the picture Sunday of 100 people in Pohnpei that our people have invested in and are partners in making an eternal difference in, everyone was thrilled. This enables us to do far more than our World Evangelism Fund.”