I counted 53 socks without partners!
They differed by size, color, age, thickness, and length, yet their purpose was identical: to cover feet and provide warmth and comfort.
Spread out on my bed, each on their own, they looked lonely—missing the companionship they were meant to have. The cure was simple enough—find their match: create a pair once again.
As I searched for their mates, I was struck with wondering where all those extra socks go. To be sure, some are left in school lockers or at the gym. Some have moved location after having been taken to a friend’s house for a sleepover or to a hotel on vacation. Still others are missing in action—perhaps caught in the dryer, or hidden by the cat.
Let me explain how I began thinking about things like lost socks. One of my regular rituals during the winter holiday break involves de-cluttering the closets and drawers belonging to our family members. The ritual is rather straightforward: clean out the unnecessary clothing items after Christmas and transport the no-longer-needed varieties to the Salvation Army. Everyone benefits. We have more room: others have items that were once valued and useful in our household.
But what exactly can you do with a spare sock?
When it comes to service, or care for others, doubling up, or pairing, has an advantage. What one person cannot do alone, two can accomplish. A pair can problem-solve, lift each other’s spirits, and share the burdens as well as the joys of service. None of us is so strong that we do not need the support of others; none of us so weak we have nothing to offer a friend or family member in need.
“If only there were two of me,” the professional woman laments. “As soon as I finish cleaning the entire house,” sighs the full-time homemaker, “the room where I began is messy again!”
That’s why working together in ministry teams, or mentorship groups, is so effective. The labor can be shared and the responsibilities divided. The pressures are reduced and the rewards can be celebrated in unison and the discouragements placed in context. Where two or three are gathered in my name, the Scriptures say, God is present, in enabling power.
Sometimes they were sent in small groups, other times two-by-two, like the animals in Noah’s Ark. They were fulfilling the Great Commandment to love as they wish to be loved in return.
Think of all the Biblical pairs: David and Jonathan, Naomi and Ruth, Priscilla and Aquilla, Paul and Silas, Mary and Martha. Sometimes they were sisters, sometimes friends. But they were brought together and together they accomplished great things.
It is easy to feel discouraged or overwhelmed when one thinks about ministry opportunities in the local church or beyond. There is usually more to do than there is time to do it. There will always be those that criticize. The applause will be brief and the grief may be great. But when we work together strength and power are added to our human frailties and the results can be awesome.
Here are some practical ideas if you would like to pair up for ministry…
- List four or five ministry activities or tasks you would like to be involved IF someone else were to join you. Ideas could include: volunteer at the food back, visit some elderly people in a nursing home, or babysit the children of a single mother.
- Identify four or five friends or family members who might be interested in joining you in this endeavour. Think of someone who lives on your street, a woman in your Bible study, a granddaughter, or women you know through activities involving the children.
- Plan a time when you will share individually with each friend or family member on your list about your “idea.” It might be during lunch, over coffee, driving to a regularly scheduled activity, or through a text on your phone. Taking the first step to ask if someone else is interested in working together is usually the hardest part.
- Expect that many or most on your list will have some excuse why they cannot help you. Don’t be easily discouraged. It is much better if someone tells you straightaway they are not interested. If no one on your list is willing to work together, you have three options: add names to the list, alter your idea for service, or listen for others’ interests and ask if you can join in their plans.
- Be bold in asking others for advice in terms of your own service. Recognizing our gifts for ministry can be difficult. That’s where pastors and other leaders come in. They can advise you on how best to use your talents in service to others in the church or the community.
- Evaluate your efforts. From time to time it is important to consider afresh all of the activities in which you are involved. Sometimes you are trying to do too many things. Sometimes, not enough occupies your time. Achieving balance is important
Pairing up for ministry is a good motto for the fall, or fresh chapter in your life. Be committed. Stay involved. Pair up!
July 26, 2017
Portions of this blog appeared as an article I wrote for The Wesleyan Woman, Spring 2002, 23(1); 9-10.