We have updated our Privacy Policy to provide you a better online experience.

Solid Rock "Vertical Youth" Create Christmas Tree Farm to Support Speed the Light and Youth Ministries

Georgia youth group hosts Christmas tree lot to raise money for missions and ministry.

For the Vertical Youth group at Solid Rock church in Columbus, Georgia, led by associate pastor Max Samples, the popular carol, “O Christmas Tree,” has taken on a whole new meaning.

This year, with the youth group on target to break its giving record to Speed the Light (STL), they decided to end the year with a fundraiser they had never tried before — a Christmas tree farm!

Samples, who says the youth work hard all year long to raise funds for missions and to help students be able to participate in camps, retreats, and other activities, says their Midland Christmas Tree Farm, located on the church’s property, began selling trees on Thanksgiving evening, Nov. 23.

“We’ve done other big events before, such as a golf tournament,” Samples says, “but this took a significant investment by the church in order to just purchase the trees.”

Samples says it took some time to find a grower who had not already sold their trees literally years ahead of time to national chain stores. When he finally found a tree farm with available trees to sell, it was in North Carolina and the minimum order was for 350 trees.

“To save money, we flew out there, rented a truck, filled it with the trees, and drove it back to Georgia — about a seven-hour drive,” Samples says. “Though my biggest concern was, just to break even, we would have to sell 200 trees.”

Above the financial concern, which has now been eased as the 200th tree was sold last week, Samples notes that running a Christmas tree farm is no small commitment of time. Each weekday, the location is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and again on the weekends from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“Students volunteer to fill time slots,” Samples says. “They put the trees in stands, help load trees that are sold, water trees, and replace the trees that are sold. I spend a lot of time out there, and my wife, Hailey, has been incredible to allow me to run the student teams during the holidays.”

But students haven’t just been working the farm, they’ve also been working to get the word out, spreading the news about the Christmas tree farm online, through flyers, and by word of mouth.

Bryce Billingsley, who is 16, says he has attended Solid Rock Church all his life and has been a part of Vertical Youth for three years.

“I try to volunteer whenever I can,” he says. “It’s fun just to help and be around the leaders and other students who are there.”

In addition to helping set trees out, Billingsley says he helps people pick out their perfect tree. Though, not surprisingly (for a growing 16-year-old), one of his favorite parts about volunteering includes food.

“Mr. Bobby — he’s a youth leader — makes great food — he grills for the workers,” says Billingsley in a way that makes it sound like he wishes he was at the tree farm right then.

However, what adds to the challenge for the youth group is between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are a lot of athletics, practices, performances, and other activities that take up students’ time — not to mention studying for midterms. As Billingsley has observed, sometimes there are as many as 15 to 17 volunteers working; other times, five to seven.

Yet, despite the challenges, the Christmas tree farm has proved successful as the community has stepped forward to support it.

“When people in our community find out what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, they’ve always rallied around us,” Samples says. “So, when they see students out here, volunteering, willingly giving up their time during this Christmas season to help other students and missionaries, it makes an impact — it’s a seed planted.”

Samples notes that some community members who don’t attend their church — or perhaps any church — have become some of the biggest and most vocal supporters simply because of the impact made during their visit to the farm.

“We’ve been getting positive feedback from our sales and how we help people out,” Billingsley agrees.

“This was definitely stepping out to do something new,” Samples says, “but every time we’ve chosen to do something unconventional or new, our community has gotten behind it. I think it’s because people see that our students believe in something enough to give up their time and effort, and that kind of dedication is infectious.”


Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.