Published February 11, 2010
HULL — What Lanier Mason does at Union Baptist Church comes naturally. He remembers his dad helping him build racer cars and onion and potato boxes when Lanier was six. Later on his grandfather would take time when not on his shift with the Athens-Clarke County Fire Department to give more instruction about woodworking.
“They taught me to go the extra mile and make sure the job was right and complete,” Mason says.
The 39-year-old Mason, now a father of his own with two boys, prayed to receive Christ at six and later became involved in Royal Ambassadors. A bent toward woodworking and 20 years of building custom cabinets brought a stockpile of tools. When fellow church member Bill Sartin asked Mason three years ago if he’d like to help with youth crafts, Mason had his saw and level ready.
“At that time we had a small building out back to do crafts. Tools were limited so teachers would bring their own to do the projects,” says Mason.
Turns out Sartin recruited an assistant, but was grooming a successor. After Mason was named leader, he and others focused on the need for a better work environment and room to grow.
Union was in the process of adding a family life center, so Mason asked if one of the unfinished rooms could be devoted to crafts. With that request granted and even a slight budget for additional tools, he says they were able to jump on crafts “wide open.”
“The new environment energized the kids,” he adds. “They could work on their cars and if it didn’t work too well they could tinker with it throughout the week.”
Those cars are specifically the ones built for RA Racers. Boys and their fathers or another man build cars together. Races are held at the church, associational, and regional level prior to the state racer derby in March at Camp Kaleo.
This year the Royal Racers Racer Derby, a new event Feb. 19-20 also held at Camp Kaleo, puts more of the responsibility on RAs.
“There will still be adult supervision, but the boys will learn how to build the cars themselves,” says Glen McCall, specialist for Men’s Ministries of the Georgia Baptist Convention. “At the same time their leaders will be going through a retreat with the theme ‘Built for Significance.’”
In six months time attendance in RA crafts at Union has gone from 8-9 to nearly 20. “Participation in the RA derby has more than doubled,” explains Associate Pastor Ben Smith. “Our church race on March 3 has the potential to field 34 cars.”
The new room and materials also made another impact. Dads started showing up.
“We’ve had so many adults come in from out of the blue,” says Mason. “We thought this would have the biggest impact working with kids, but so many dads are here now.
“A lot of parents don’t come to church, but have gotten involved through this program. We offer them things to do with their children. It’s been life-changing to take this over.”
“He’s fulfilling from a theological perspective the fact that God created and man, being created in God’s likeness, seeks to create as well,” says McCall. “When a boy is building his racer derby, the father needs to assist rather than do it for him. The boy needs to stand on his own two feet.”
On the other side of the pendulum, dads have to guard against checking out, physically and mentally, says Men’s Ministries Consultant Mike Flowers.
“Boys need time. Dads can want to come in from work and sit in the recliner and relax. We’ll sacrifice a dollar for our kids, but not time,” adds Flowers, director for Camp Kaleo.
“Find adventures to go on – hiking, rock climbing, caving. Do things outside the norm. Kids thrive on that.”
The craft room at Union Baptist Church has become a place for fathers, sons, and mentors to build bonds. A fireman helped begin Mason’s interest in woodworking. Now himself a part of the Athens-Clarke County Fire Department, Mason’s extending that connection.
“I’ve seen him take vacation time to be here,” says Smith, who served with Mason at the fire department before joining Union Baptist. “He takes time off work to be here Wednesdays to build cars. It’s brought about outstanding participation. He teaches safety and helps dads find their way around the tools.
“It’s become a very positive thing.”
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