If your ministry has many members, volunteers or congregants, volunteer projects that raise money are a good idea. Typically, the entire infrastructure for the project is in place and your group need only provide the manpower to generate cash.
Have you ever seen people wrapping gifts for tips or a small fee at Barnes and Noble or the local mall at Christmas? Many large chain stores and shopping malls will invite charities in during the holidays to perform this customer service. Make sure the location will provide the materials (paper, tape, bows, scissors, tags, pens); if not, buy them in bulk. Consider training for your volunteers to make sure everyone knows how to wrap a package attractively. As a general rule, don't start your gift-wrapping project until December 15. American's don't Christmas shop that far in advance. Schedule this type of fundraising event closer to Christmas if possible.
Gift-wrapping calls to mind other seasonal sales projects. Your church youth group could sell Christmas trees or wreaths. For a Christmas tree sale, secure a site in a high-traffic location. You might need to obtain a permit, so check with City Hall first. If your church is in a good, well-traveled location, you could simply use the church parking lot. Talk to two or three local tree farms to compare prices, then place your order. Set your prices above what you are paying the tree farm; you might check other lots to make sure your prices are comparable. Set up your trees and your cash box, and make sure you have adequate lighting. Also consider offering coffee, cocoa and Christmas carols to make your sale more festive. During the fall season, your group could use this same model to sell pumpkins.
Food sales are also popular. From Girl Scout Cookies to candy bars, cheesecakes and Thanksgiving turkeys, your group can sell almost any food item at a profit. A simple Internet search using the terms "food, sales and fundraising" will turn up many sources. For those who want to avoid food items, novelty gifts, magazine subscriptions and candles are other options. The possibilities are endless.
One important note: the key to these projects is to use volunteers, not staff time. If staff members are implementing the project, your group will not generate much income. Staff time is costly, and when staff members are implementing sales projects they are taking time away from their other activities.