Every fall Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, hosts a Greater Gift sale. “People enjoy purchasing gifts for their friends and family, which in turn helps the artists who create the gifts make a living,” says Karen Goedeken, organizer of the Gloria Dei Fair-Trade Sale.

Goedeken kicks off the sale by showing a video about fair trade to the adult forum class. She enlists the help of the social ministry committee and youth from the confirmation class to help her set up and take down the equipment.

College Lutheran Church sponsors several fairs every year. They feature fair-trade coffee, chocolate, soups and dips, crafts and Christmas decorations. The sales benefit small farmers and artisans internationally who do not have access to traditional markets.

Congregations can host a fair-trade fair with fairly traded handcrafts and foods from around the world. Every sale benefits the producers of handcrafted items and consumable products.

ELCA World Hunger offers these ideas for hosting a fair-trade fair:

  • Download the free ELCA Good Gifts Fair Planning Guide. It has everything you need to host an event at your congregation, including step-by-step instructions, content for newsletters and bulletins, crafts, activities, stories and more.
  • Offer fair-trade gifts that could complement an ELCA Good Gifts donation. Display these items alongside corresponding pages of the ELCA Good Gifts catalog and matching gift cards.
  • Give a small hand-carved cross with a gift donation for missionary sponsorship.
  • Give fair-trade coffee with a gift donation to support agriculture projects.
  • Give drop-shaped earrings with a gift donation to provide life-giving water to a community.
  • Provide a festive atmosphere, play Christmas carols, serve cookies and hot cider and hold a raffle for special prizes throughout the event. Perhaps you can find a few musicians to perform their favorite Advent hymns.

Publicity and promotions

Make sure everyone is invited to help make a difference!

  • Recruit a team of volunteers to help you plan, set up, staff the sales and donation tables and clean up.
  • Schedule the event for a Sunday after worship or between services. People will be there anyway, so attendance will be higher.
  • Run an article about the event in the church newsletter and on the church Web site.
  • Place announcements in the bulletin the week before and the day of your event.
  • Start promoting early. Make sure people hear about the event before they go out to do holiday shopping.
  • Consider sending “save-the-date” postcards to church members in the fall.

Additional ideas:

  • Invite children in the congregation to come to church one Sunday dressed in animal costumes. Help them write and perform a short skit about God’s Global Barnyard in place of a hymn or the children’s sermon.
  • Invite the youth group to select the fair-trade items that will be offered for sale, and create a fashion show or skit to share how these purchases — along with gifts for ministry — make a difference in the world.
  • Some people might have fun observing “Buy Nothing Day” on the day after Thanksgiving by gathering to work on preparations for an alternative giving fair instead of heading out to the mall.

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