By Caleb Mynatt
In Memphis, Second Baptist Church’s Pumpkin Patch Ministry has been a church fundraising tradition for 17 years. Loved by church and community members alike, the pumpkin patch offers a family-friendly fall experience right in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee.
That’s why there was a great deal of disappointment when the pandemic seemed to mean that in 2020 they wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
“Up until about a month before it happened, we were thinking we would have to cancel it,” said Daniel Johnson, associate minister at Second Memphis.
As with the case of so many other events, Second Memphis had a tough decision to make. Determining that it would be possible to put on the event in a safe manner, the church decided to proceed with the event, putting in extra safety precautions for the visitors and their workers.
Their hard work resulted in the most successful Pumpkin Patch Ministry in their church’s history, grossing total sales of $110,000. That number is a 56 percent increase over the $76,000 of 2019. With the money, they were able to raise, Second Baptist Church will be able to better fund ministries and help their community as they combat the perils of COVID-19.
A 56 percent increase in revenue would be surprising under normal circumstances. But given the constraints of the pandemic, they seem even more improbable. Some of the factors that led to that result included great organization and the fact that early voting was taking place at the church at the same time. But, at the end of the day, the pandemic itself could have very well been the thing that made it so successful.
“I think people were desperate for something normal and that’s what we were providing,” said Johnson. “People wanted something to take their kids to that felt normal; and we were able to create a safe environment for that.”
One thing that made Second’s pumpkin patch experience so successful was the outpouring of manpower and support they had from a local school. Finding people to “man” the pumpkin patch can be difficult without also dealing with the presence of a public health crisis. However, the Collegiate School of Memphis had over 100 students come out to help with the pumpkin patch, resulting in a much larger share of community involvement from years past. Students typically help with the unloading of pumpkins into the patch; but some even manned shifts during active hours at the patch, making it much easier on the Second Baptist congregation.
“To my knowledge, we’ve never had anyone from that school to help us before,” said Johnson. “All of a sudden, I was getting a ton of emails saying that these kids are signing up, and they’re signing up to work regular three-hour shifts. We’ve never had students do that before.”
Because of the students’ hard work and the unbelievable success of the pumpkin patch, the church leadership wanted to give a portion of their profits back to the school. The result was a $10,000 check to the school to be used to create an outdoor learning area and to complete some needed renovations. According to Johnson, it was a small repayment for the work that the students did as well as the beginning of what he hopes can be a lasting relationship between the school and the church.
“The Family Ministry Team figured that, given the circumstances and because of all the school’s amazing help, if we couldn’t give something back to them, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Johnson. “The team had only one requirement: The money had to be used to benefit the entire school and not just one particular student.”
For Johnson, the success of the pumpkin patch this year meant a lot. Because of the odds they had to overcome to pull it off in the first place, along with the unbelievable support from the school and the community, it all culminated into an amazing experience where a large, diverse portion of the community was able to come together. Regardless of race, gender or age, the pumpkin patch provided a wonderful opportunity for the members of the East Memphis community to share in each other’s company. All in all, according to Johnson, that was the most beautiful part.
“One day, I had a chance to look around at everyone attending,” said Johnson. “I thought to myself that it was an awesome depiction of the Kingdom of God—everyone coming together in a time where so many need hope. I’m hoping it will continue to be this way in the future.”