Can you imagine looking out your window first thing in the morning to find that your front yard was covered with more than 30 sheep?
That’s the surprise that greeted many congregation members of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Evans City, Pennsylvania last spring and summer. The sheep, which were from the Outdoor Nativity Store collection, were part of a fundraising project called “flocking” that was the brainchild of Pastor Brandon Jacobs.
A few times a week from Easter through July, Brandon led a group of 16 teens as they “flocked” their friends’ and neighbors’ yards. “The kids loved the legal mischief,” says Brandon. “We’d wait for the cover of darkness, and there was always this tingle of excitement of whether we would get caught or not. We also had fun thinking about what their reactions would be like in the morning.”
Brandon, who has served as the youth pastor at St. Peter’s for about 18 months, got the idea for flocking after observing similar flamingo fundraisers in other communities. He was looking for a church-themed alternative when he discovered the Outdoor Nativity Store sheep on an internet search.
The fun project raised about $1,000, which will be used toward the cost of the youth group’s trip next summer to Houston for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American (ELCA) Youth Gathering in Houston. “I have taken youth to the Gathering before, and it really strengthens their faith,” says Brandon, noting that the teens also may have opportunities to help serve Houstonians in hurricane clean-up efforts while they are there.
“The good part about this fundraising project is that no one had to spend any money if they didn’t want to,” says Brandon. “There was no obligation to pay to flock someone’s yard or to move them to another yard. Virtually everyone did make a donation though.”
Brandon says he definitely would want to do the flocking project again with the youth. “The teens had a good time, and the congregation really embraced it,” he adds.
“We enjoyed hearing the reactions of people later. There were things like ‘My dog was acting weird (that night) but I didn’t know why’ and “I can’t believe I didn’t hear you; I was sitting in the living room.’”
He says the teens did get caught in the act one time when two barking dogs got their owners’ attention. “We tried to scatter but not quite quick enough,” Brandon explains. “But it was fun. They were laughing, and we were laughing.”
Brandon also mentioned that word of “flocking” spread throughout Evans City and the surrounding area. “Evans City is a small town, but many of the homes we flocked were on main roads,” says Brandon. “The story grew as the weeks went on, and people in the community all looked forward to who was going to be flocked next.”