Lord's Acre Sale: A century of stewardship

At the Lord’s Acre Sale, loving your neighbor may take the form of pumpkins, homemade preserves, fried apple pies or bales of hay.

Those items and more are what United Methodists stock at their annual Lord’s Acre Sales, a decades-old stewardship tradition in U.S. rural areas where gifts from the land and larder transform into a way to meet neighbors’ and communities’ needs.

The history of the Lord’s Acre Sale goes back to 1922 when a Baptist preacher in Georgia challenged his congregation to set aside the harvest from one acre as the annual tithe. A story of how the boil weevil destroyed all area crops in 1923 except the ones designated as the “Lord’s Acre,” and the subsequent article about the incident in Time magazine, propelled the church practice to international acclaim. By 1930, the Lord’s Acre Plan was established, expanding to more than 1000 churches in 20 denominations, including the Methodist church. Lord’s Acre programs have also been created in India, China, Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

“We believe church does not stop at the door, that it goes out into the community,” states Betty Munsey, where she and other members at Central United Methodist Church, have grown, baked and sold items for more than 50 years at the Bland County, Virginia, Lord’s Acre Sale. The money is used to help local folks and make improvements to their church and neighborhood.

Whether it’s donating coats to children or funding a special youth project, Katie Gamble, a member at Red Oak United Methodist Church in Ceres, Va., says participating in the Lord’s Acre Sale is a God-endorsed mission. 

“We’re called to work for the Lord, so when you’re working for Lord’s Acre and all of the projects that are going on, ultimately that funding goes into things that the Lord would certainly approve of,” she explains.

Since the mid-1970s, members at Elm Hill United Methodist Church in Rogersville, Missouri, have auctioned cream pies, hot sauce, loads of wood, quilts and livestock and more. The proceeds always benefit local community outreach. The event, however, comes with an additional benefit.

 “People in our rural community support the auction because they know we support them and others in need,” says Allen Roller, longtime member at Elm Grove UMC. “They come for a good cause, but it’s also  somewhat of a reunion now. They come back to see friends and family.”

It’s all hands on deck with members at First United Methodist Church at Van Alstyne, Texas, spending months baking and making crafts to sell at its annual Lord’s Acre Harvest Festival. More than $100,000 has been raised to support local and global missions.

“Our prayer is that these funds will serve those in need and further God's kingdom here on earth,” Debbie Herndon Nance said.

Munsey says the Lord’s Acre Sale sends an important evangelism message too.

“We look and we are aware of our neighbors’ problems and we reach out to them,” Munsey points out. “So the Lord’s Acre also is an example to people who are not active in the church to what church is.”

Crystal Caviness works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email or at 615-742-5138.

This content was published December 17, 2021.