Editor’s note: This is the 21st in a series of stories about congregations engaged in significant outreach and evangelism ministries, reflecting the General Assembly’s commitment to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide.” ― Jerry L. Van Marter
Eighteen members strong, First Church held a Spring Bike Cleanup for their community of roughly 4,000 people on April 19th and the results easily eclipsed the number of people and the amount of money it took to produce the service and outreach project.
The congregation — part of Palo Duro Presbytery — organized and funded the program completely on its own. Executive Presbyter Richard Schempp was very pleased with what he saw.
“This is a wonderful example of what a small church in a small community can do to reach out and spread the gospel,” Schempp said. It was a textbook example, he added, of “growing Christ’s church deep and wide” — an evangelistic outreach emphasis endorsed by last summer’s 218th Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly.
Pastor Dana Mayfield credits her husband, Brian, for coming up with the idea. Brian, an avid cyclist, wanted to share something he enjoys with others. He’d been thinking about the bicycle fix-up idea for awhile. Brian wanted to help kids in the community keep their bikes going so they could enjoy riding as much as he does.
“He made the suggestion, and everyone just embraced it,” says Mayfield. “As is so often the case with this sort of thing, everyone got involved and it just sort of grew from there.”
Brian and a few other men from the congregation who are also cyclists offered to do the routine maintenance and simple repair work. Some fellow riders who were members of other churches in town were also eager to volunteer.
Another church member offered space in his downtown auto repair shop. Mayfield says it was an ideal spot because the shop contained an air compressor, tools and plenty of space in which to work as well as a waiting area where people could wait for their bikes and visit with other “customers” if they chose to do so.
Mayfield says more than half of the 18 members of her congregation are over the age of 75, but even older members found a way to be involved. As the idea grew, they decided to serve cookies, brownies, lemonade, and chili to the workers and the community. Some of the older church members prepared the food.
The church purchased all of the supplies needed for the clean-up, including patch repair kits, WD-40, brake cable, and bike inner tubes of all sizes. All parts, labor and food were given to those who came at no charge.
The local police department sent an officer to conduct safety classes, and First Church even purchased bicycle helmets at a 75 percent discount from ProRider and gave them away to all of the kids who attended the fix-up.
“We wanted to also make sure bicycle safety was a big part of this event,” says Mayfield. “I made them all promise to wear them and when I see them around town with them on, I definitely plan to let them know how proud I am of them.”
Mayfield says the money for all of the supplies and helmets came from a trust fund belonging to the church.
“We were fortunate enough to receive a gift some years back that’s been put in a trust fund,” she says. “The wishes of the family who gave the gift were that it be used for the community, specifically the kids … so I think they would be pleased with this.”
The entire cost of the event was $600 — a small amount in exchange for the smiles and joy it brought to the kids, Mayfield says.
“We have a lot of struggling families and single parents in our community,” she notes. “Sometimes they don’t have the money, but sometimes it’s also the fact that they’re working two jobs and just don’t have the time to take care of these small things at home.”
Mayfield’s hope is that this is the sort of program that will keep providing benefit to the community. She hopes having working bicycles will give kids a freedom to get out and play and go to the park and just be kids instead of being stuck at home all summer.
Schempp says the Spring Bike Clean-up is exactly the sort of thing the presbytery encourages its churches to do.
“I normally ask congregations, ‘What can you do in your community that no one else can do?’” he says.
Mayfield insists that the families who were served were not the only beneficiaries of the project. Mayfield was also pleased with the effect the program had on some of the volunteers.
“Normally when you do these community care type projects, they seem to be women-centered,” she notes. “But this time it was the men who were the stars of the show and got a chance to really shine. And they really did. I watched them work so carefully and meticulously on those bikes and just enjoy what they were doing. They were so proud of what they did when it was over.”
First Church wants to continue the bike program. While they haven’t yet had a chance to meet to discuss it, Mayfield thinks doing bike cleanups twice a year would be ideal. And she says now that the extent of the need has been uncovered, next time they’ll know what to expect so they can be even better prepared.
“We were not ready for the number of people who showed up!” she says. “We had people waiting in line for us long before we were scheduled to begin. We did run out of a couple of the tubes. We had to run out to the store for more. Next time we’ll make sure we’re ready for them.”
Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer in Statesville, NC, where she also serves as church secretary for First Presbyterian Church.