CRESTVIEW — First United Methodist Church of Crestview members put their money where their faith is.
Throughout Lent, decorated wooden church banks gave churchgoers a colorful place to drop their spare change, contributing the savings toward paying down a mortgage on the church's new family life center.
The Rev. Brandon Dasinger, the church's youth minister and associate pastor, said more than $123,000 was raised during the 40-day campaign. The church still owes around $900,000 on the more than $2 million Crossroads Center.
Members could direct their Lenten gift to benefit the general giving fund or to pay down the center’s debt, Dasinger said.
The Crossroads Center opened in 2012 and features Wesley Hall, a large multi-purpose room that houses the contemporary worship service. The center also provides an expanded youth ministry area with a game room, a main hall and smaller meeting and classrooms.
On Easter Sunday, nearly 40 banks, each decorated by church members, were displayed in the sanctuary.
"They were unreal," member Cathy Thigpen said. "One they turned into a Noah's Ark. Somebody planted theirs and made it look like it had grass and shrubs. People were very creative. Some had shingles on. Someone took pennies and just covered the roof with them."
Thigpen and her husband, Dr. Lee Thigpen, covered their church bank with a decoupage of family photos. Some showed Cathy's father serving as an usher when the church was in its former location on Wilson Street, and Lee's mother playing the old church's organ.
"We're rooted in this church and, for us, it's been a desire of ours to see it grow," Cathy Thigpen said. "We're doing that. It's exactly what we're commanded to do."
"It worked great and everyone had a lot of fun with it," Dasinger said. "My daughter's 2, so our church was very pink. We got the 'most pink church' award."
Other awards, chosen by impartial judges from outside the congregation, included "most creative," "most church-like," and "Wow!" for the most dazzling, Dasinger said.
"More than anything, it's the sacrificial giving," Cathy Thigpen said. "Instead of having that Starbucks that I love, I can put that money toward my church. That's going to last longer than a cup of coffee."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.