Written by Molly Kemp, an Intern at St John's Hoxton and organiser of this Mustard Seed Appeal fundraiser.

“Over 8 million people in the UK are struggling financially,” a child reads from a leaf they’ve just found. We’re at a church garden party, aiming to raise money for the Mustard Seed Appeal.

In order to explore the topic of debt and payday lenders in a fun, friendly and comfortable way, we’ve organised a treasure hunt. Hidden around the church grounds are laminated leaves, some resembling £5/10/20 notes and some with facts written on – like the one that was just read out. As leaves are found, we stick them on an outline of a tree, a visual illustration of Matthew 12 parable of a mustard tree growing to be one of the biggest trees in the garden.

The treasure hunt was the highlight of the garden party for me. It was wonderful to see so many different children, both from the church and not, engaging and enjoying themselves. We served a BBQ, invited people to bring and share food, and we ate together. We played a couple of ice-breaker games, one of which involved writing questions on paper airplanes and throwing them about until someone else picks up yours and has to answer the question.

There was a great sense of community at the whole event; every time I looked around people were engaging in conversation with one another. We had collection pots labelled with cartoon lips and a sign saying ‘put your money where your mouth is’ and at the end of the event we had raised nearly £250.

I’m working with St John’s Hoxton this July as part of an internship with CTC. My co-intern Laura and I have been running listening campaigns to discover what issues the community cares about, particularly focusing on Road Safety and Just Finance.

On our first Sunday, we ran an activity at a shared lunch, asking people how much of a problem payday lenders were for them. We asked people to put a fake £20 note in a pot if they were a serious problem, a fake £5 note for not a problem, and a fake £10 note for somewhere in between. Nearly everyone we asked put in a £20 note.

Later in that week, I met with Colleen for coffee and cake and she told me her story. Having struggled with payday debt before, she is now a champion for credit unions and just finance – and hoping to one day fund a trip to Australia. Meeting with her and hearing her story helped to personalise the issue. It can be easy when you read facts – like that 8million people in the UK are struggling financially – and focus on the number and forget that that number represents 8 million individuals, with their own stories, lives, and worries about finance.

We held the fundraiser because we know that unethical lending causes problems in our community and with members of our congregation. We believe that there should be just finance available for all; that each person in that 8million matters, and that through the provision of essential financial services, the Mustard Seed Appeal can and will help. 

We wanted to put our money where our mouth is – to do more than just say we want to see a just finance system, but contribute in any way possible to the growth of one.

See more photos from the party here.