So you’re sitting in church at one of our CCCC campuses, one Sunday or Wednesday. You’ve sung a couple of songs, said “Hello,” to a few friendly folks sitting in the row behind you, and now you’re listening to a pastor talk about the importance of giving as he mentions “First Gifts,” with those words appearing on the screen in some artistic design.

Soon, the offering bag works its way down the row towards you, and you scramble to pull out your checkbook, jot down a few numbers, scrawl your signature at the bottom and write “First Gifts” in the corner. You drop the small piece of paper into the mysterious black bag/plate as it passes by.

Then you listen to the sermon, maybe sing another song or two, and head home.

By the time Monday rolls around (or Thursday for you Wednesday nighters) you probably aren’t thinking much about that check anymore. Or maybe you’ve asked yourself “Where does that money actually go?” but then shrugged it off and chalked it up to obediently following what the guy on stage said to do.

Well let me be the one to say, regardless of how much you know about where your money ends up, thank you! Your gifts mean more than you know.

The resources you give to First Gifts help change lives around the globe.

Let me show you how.

As we find ourselves in the midst of the season of gift giving, family gathering, pine trees, and glowing lights, it can be easy to look at all the frills and fun or the busy schedule and dollar signs and forget why it all happens.

Christmas is a time of giving, loving, and serving, but it all points to the celebration of God sending his son Jesus to be with us and to ultimately save us from our sins. Jesus came to love, serve, and save. After his death and resurrection, Jesus gave the Great Commission and charged his followers with the mission of making disciples of all nations. Now, we are called to carry out this task and live in a way that shows God’s love to the world around us.

The idea behind First Gifts is that before you buy gifts for anyone else, you give your first gift to Jesus. This gift is one that falls outside of your normal giving to the church. It’s given purposefully and intentionally as a present to Jesus and the work being done in His name.

All of the money given to First Gifts funnels into three ministry areas: Camps, GO, and People In Need (PIN).

Through these ministries our money is used to love and serve people around us, help people listen to and obey Jesus, and enable people to go around world and help multiply the number of Christ-followers within the kingdom of God.

So let’s say your checkgoes to support camps. The money you gave might help pay for a student, who wouldn’t have been able to afford to go to camp. Last year 64 scholarships were issued to such students, collectively worth $12,233. Or your gift might be used to help reduce the overall cost of attending for anyone who wants to go. Because of First Gifts, the cost was reduced last year and because of that, 602 kids got to go to camp. That required that more volunteers be involved – 149 to be exact – many of whom would tell you that camp impacted them as much or more than it did the kids it was intended for.

In total, $127,233 from First Gifts was used for camps this year, with roughly $115,000 of that being used to reduce the cost of attending. But the biggest number that came out of camp was 47 – the number of students who gave their lives to Christ while they were there.

Maybe instead of Camps, your gift goes to GO.

The GO ministry encompasses church planting in Houston, the U.S. and overseas, and includes helping send people on mission trips.

Last year $223,898.77 was given through First Gifts to GO. That money was used to support our Caribbean Partnership which includes nine leaders who oversee and shepherd 490 gospel-centered ministries, church planting in Houston, India, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam, Acts 29 Europe’s 24-church network which involves church planting and ministry support, and seven CCCC mission trips that included 63 church members that visited Honduras, Haiti, Ukraine, and the Caribbean.

And then there’s PIN.

If your First Gifts money doesn’t go to GO or to Camps, then it is put to good use within the People In Need ministry.

In case you didn’t know, PIN exists at CCCC because our conviction as a church is that seasons of grief, crisis, or need provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate grace and share the gospel of Jesus with people who are seeking answers and comfort. The goal of the PIN process is to intervene in those situations to begin to build relationships where we can help people become fully devoted followers of Jesus.

If you just take a casual glance around our lobbies on a Sunday or Wednesday you probably wouldn’t recognize the people PIN serves. But when you live in community with people, you talk to them and get to know them, you discover there are people worshipping and serving at CCCC who live with unexpected, and often, overwhelming practical needs.

In the past year, First Gifts has helped PIN assist families impacted because the primary resource provider has been unable to work due to a struggle against cancer or because of other critical medical issues. In the last year PIN has assisted elderly shut-ins with groceries and utility expenses, come to the aid of women and children suffering in situations of domestic violence, contributed to the needs of single moms struggling to work and provide for their children, and helped in situations where a sudden job loss has left a family struggling to make ends meet.

At all of our campuses there are people among us who don’t have enough to eat, a mattress to sleep on, or the money to keep the lights turned on. But they are here, and your generosity enables CCCC to love and serve them in the most basic ways.

The First Gifts resources given to PIN also help provide for partner ministries in our community to serve under-resourced people from all over the 4B Area. These ministries help CCCC make an impact with the gospel in our own backyard. They include: Anchor Point, The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Clear Lake Baptist Food Pantry, Galveston Urban Ministries, Lighthouse Christian Ministries, and Peaceful Place.

Last year $159,200 was given through First Gifts to help serve 216 families within our community. That money was used for automotive expenses, counseling, food, housing, utilities, and other specific needs that those families had.

Now, I tell you all of this, and share these numbers, not because the people of CCCC are so great, or because this church needs an article to pat it on the back, but because we serve a mighty God who is doing mighty things with our small offerings.

So know that when you give, when you sacrifice your resources, you can do so confidently, knowing that you are serving people who truly need it, and in so doing, you are joining in the purpose given to us by Jesus Christ.