(CNN) -- The pastor of a non-denominational church in Argyle, Texas, passed around the collection plate to his congregants earlier this year -- and asked them to take money from it.
Donations at the Cross Timbers Community Church had slumped because of the economic downturn. Pastor Toby Slough thought that his congregants had to be hurting, too.
His gesture, instead, was met with an unexpected response: The church had its highest offering ever.
It was a eureka moment for Slough: Give away money to those who need it, knowing his church members will help fill the need.
"In these economic times, we can't be so into church business that we forget what our business is, and that is to help people," Slough told CNN television affiliate KDAF in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas.
In the past two months, the 9-year-old church has done just that: handed out a half-million dollars to members and non-members who are struggling. Watch pastor on rip off concerns »
"We've taken $200,000 and spread it out to organizations -- four local, two missions that are feeding and clothing people in these tough times," Slough said. "We've paid utility bills for members of our church that are unemployed or under-employed."
His favorite giveaway came three weeks ago. The church gave 1,400 families $50 each and told them to hand it out to someone else.
One of the recipients was Katie Lewis.
"I've been alone so long. Just to be thought of and to be remembered, to be welcomed -- it's amazing," she said, crying.
Church members are pleasantly surprised.
"You don't hear about a church giving money away," Amy Sullivan said.
Slough said he is not concerned if people try to take advantage of the church's generosity.
"I told my church a couple weeks ago, if I'm not being taken advantage of, I'm not being like Jesus," he said.
The church has now formed a group to look into the best ways to give out money. And, Slough said, it plans on doing so as long as there is a need in the community.