LOUISVILLE

The members of Starmount Presbyterian Church are getting something extra special for Christmas this year — the opportunity to determine the fate of their pastor’s facial hair.

It all began when the Rev. John Odom, pastor of the Greensboro, North Carolina, church, decided to participate in No Shave November, a national campaign dedicated to raising awareness about cancer by encouraging people to donate the money they would normally spend on hair grooming to cancer charities instead.

The normally clean-shaven Odom stopped shaving for the month. On the last Sunday of the month, Odom was talking with members and heard a number of opinions about his new beard and mustache. Many loved the new look, while others were eager for him to shave.

Odom had an idea: “Maybe we should let people put their money where their mouth is and let people vote with their contributions to the Christmas Joy Offering.”

For the month of December, members of Starmount are encouraged to give to the churchwide offering, which provides financial assistance to current and former church workers and also enables students to attend Presbyterian-related racial-ethnic schools and colleges. With their donations, the members can mark “mow” or “grow” to vote for Odom to shave or keep the beard. Final results will be revealed at Starmount’s Christmas Eve service.

“This isn’t really about whether John shaves his beard or not,” Odom said, adding that the challenge is just a fun way to increase giving to the offering. “All of this only counts if we increase our giving by 10 percent over last year.”

A clean-shaven Odom

The Rev. John Odom —courtesy John Odom

Starmount has participated in the Christmas Joy Offering for many years, Odom said.

“They find it really important to support retired church workers and those who have given of their time and service and lifeblood in ministry,” he said, noting that North Carolina is also the state with the highest concentration of Presbyterian-related colleges and universities.

As of Dec. 7, the “grow” votes are leading in the polls.

If Odom ends up keeping his facial hair, he will shave on Feb. 18, 2015, when he’ll “give up the beard” for Lent.

Want to submit your vote? Starmount is taking online donations here. Mark your gift “Christmas Joy — Grow” or “Christmas Joy — Mow.”

John Odom is married to Emily Enders Odom, an employee of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and contributor to Presbyterian News Service.