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If I had a hammer

Hammer and Nail

In this “Power in the Pew” Laity Blog, Anne Soles encourages Michigan disciples to put their spiritual tools to work.

ANNE SOLES
Michigan Conference Lay Leader

Peter, Paul and Mary sang, If I Had a Hammer. You may know the words. “I’d hammer out justice, I’d hammer out freedom.  I’d hammer out love between our brothers and our sisters all over this land.” Kind of strong approach if you look at the words. It was fun to sing around camp fires. But the popular song captured the idea of “do something.”

As lay members of the church and members of the community, those words reverberate. Not only the charge to “do something,” but deep knowledge about the ways to do something. Remember the adage, “To a carpenter, all problems look like a nail.”  My dad was a shop teacher. I don’t swing one, but I do know about tack hammers and claw hammers and two-pound hammers and mauls.

Our Property Management team in Pentwater took one of those mauls to the sidewalk in front of the church this morning. They were tired of talking with the village about who was responsible for the tripping spot in the sidewalk where tree roots lifted the concrete. They worked directly and took care of the problem. They put up yellow tape. The cement truck comes next week.

The challenge to a lay member in the church often comes just as directly. We stand in the world with tools in our hands: hammers, calculators, car keys, spatulas, grocery bags, even diapers. We are equipped with tools. And, goodness knows, there are plenty of “roots” raising the sidewalks in our lives.

Our communities have many places where we can work to bring care, comfort, support and what is needed. “When did we see you naked, hungry, afraid,” asked the disciples. Our towns, our cities, our townships have many places to take our tools.

One of the TOM talks at Annual Conference was a panel of representatives of church-school programs. Big schools and small schools in partnership with local congregations helping children and connecting with teachers, parents and grandparents of children. They told stories of providing winter gear, summer and weekend food packs, school supplies and even donuts for hard pressed bus drivers coping with winter roads.

The moderator, part way through, turned to the audience and said, “How many of you have a school in your community?” And I ask you, how many of you have heard someone in the congregation say, “Where are our young people” or “Where is our future church?”

The fact is, we live in these school districts. We know the principals and the janitors. We do know where to find the children. And we do have tools (tutors, teachers, shoppers, the readers of stories). Putting it together will take some thought.

First, we need to walk into the building. Then we need to listen and sort through our tools. As an aside, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership recently posted a Leading Idea titled, “4 Tips for Launching a Church-School Partnership.

Looking for children? How many of you have a nursery school in your building or down the street? A Head-Start? A children’s ward? A library story hour? At our local migrant day care center, they needed volunteers to hold babies. How hard is that assignment! You need two hands and a story book. The old model of parents coming into the church bringing children to Sunday School, needs a refresher. Children are children. They can be our children. They may be neighborhood children. They may be grandchildren. 

Lisa Batten has accepted the challenge of working with young adult ministries. Coming from Western Michigan University’s Wesley Foundation, she has a “Habitat trailer” of tools for working with young adults – career choices, returning veterans, call to ministry, student loans and she “speaks” Pinterest.

Lisa’s challenge is to find the work sites. Who is in touch with community colleges?  Who has a support group for single moms? Who is working with returning veterans?  She is networking her way into a very large state. And you may be looking for her as well.

In another generational worksite, The Older Adults Committee meets this week to tackle “how can we help.” They come together with expertise on government programs, senior housing, and intergenerational ministries. And they are thinking that your church may be that work site. How many of you have a senior center in your community? A nursing home? Adult foster care? A place to have a game of cards, a brief chat with news of the outside world, the score of the Tigers?  Do you have tools?

As we go through this first year as the Michigan Conference, the Board of Laity and other ministries will be looking for good-model “work sites”:  congregations and individuals at work in their communities. Charged with making disciples and so transforming our world, we need to step out into that world. We are a connectional church and part of our assignment is to connect these stories of projects and ministries and what makes them work.

The starting point is your tool chest. Do your Monday-Friday tools have application for the work of the church and your work as a follower of Jesus Christ? If you know how to make a killer spreadsheet or hold 3-year olds spellbound with a story or feed a multitude with a good casserole, we need you. 

Peter, Paul and Mary sang about a hammer. I’m not suggesting you pick up a nail gun — unless you know how to use it. We have some love-hammering to do.

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