Paying It Forward Provides Needed Assistance for Churches

By Charles Hewgley

Any dictionary will tell you the “pay it forward” expression describes when the recipient of an act of kindness does something kind for someone else rather than simply accepting or repaying the original good deed. In other words, you pay it forward when you don't repay the person who did something nice for you but rather you do something nice for someone else.

Today’s current state of affairs certainly offers many opportunities for individuals, families, organizations and churches to practice this very well-intentioned idea. The concept was presented more than 100 years ago in Lily Hardy Hammond’s 1916 novel In the Garden of Delight. The author used the phrase when she reflected, "I never repaid [my] Great-aunt Letitia's love to her, any more than she repaid her mother's. You don't pay love back; you pay it forward."

As children in Sunday School, we learned from Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant that paying it forward is expected of those who have received God's forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). But perhaps we practice the most basic pattern of this concept through the inter-generational devotion of parents to their children. We continue what our parents did for us by forwarding that to the next generation.

The Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) board recently discussed ideas for sharing resources in order to extend the reach of grants the foundation is able to award each year. Since the 2013 launch of the GCF, the board has granted more than $550,000 to Tennessee Conference churches and United Methodist organizations.

Because the foundation follows an annual budgetary limit on how much financial support the board can provide through grants, the board continually explores new funding and giving options. Paying it forward is one such option.

In 2019, Martins Chapel United Methodist Church in Springfield, Tennessee, received a grant to help purchase a used van for its older adult transportation ministry. After using the van for a year, the church purchased another van and gave the van bought under the GCF grant to a Tennessee Conference church with a limited budget.

Opportunities for individuals, families, organizations, and churches to pay it forward toward Golden Cross Foundation initiatives abound. For example, if a larger church increases its capacity to offer virtual worship and fellowship during the pandemic, its no-longer-needed but still functioning audio visual equipment could be transferred to a smaller church to enhance that church’s worship ministry for older members. Passing along a used but fully operational van is another great idea.

The GCF board strongly encourages churches receiving foundation grants to participate in the annual Golden Cross Sunday Special Offering. Proceeds are a primary source of funding for GCF’s older adult initiatives.

For decades the offering was taken on the second Sunday in May. However, CGF board members felt the offering competed with other important giving milestones in the Church: Mother’s Day, graduate recognition, Native American Ministries Sunday, and Peace with Justice Sunday. Delegates at the 2020 Tennessee Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church approved a resolution to change the official date to the second Sunday in September. However, congregations can still take the special offering any time during the year.

To support the mission of GCF, please visit If you, your family, or your organization is interested in discussing new opportunities to endow or support a grant category, contact GCF Executive Director Kent McNish at

Note: The author wishes to acknowledge the excellent resources found at, which contributed to this article.