The impact of the parable of the talents on the 21st century church

We think of the story about the master who gave talents to those looking after things for Him in a positive light. What about turning it around a bit and seeing what happens when we do not use the talents or resources we are given.

The story goes that the one who was afraid of using what he was given and buried his talents was called wicked. He was not just unfruitful. He wasted what he had been given to multiply and fulfill the master’s request. He said he was frightened of doing the wrong thing so he made sure that he could not do anything with what he was given. The result was that he was not only called wicked but lazy.

Let’s look at this from another perspective.

Instead of the servants being people let’s put the church in the role of servant. Instead of the servants being given resources in the terms of money lets think of them as being given resources in the terms of people. The church is given a job to do. Well all followers of Jesus have been asked to serve the community and ensure that the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the thirsty have something to drink and the sick are cared for and preferably healed. (Yes a big job but someone has to do it.)

Those of us who have tried to do something within the church to serve the community have often met a few obstacles along the way. The fears of the leadership might be I don’t think that will work or that that it is worth doing. Or it might be that that is not the way you should do it. Or it might be that we have to look after our reputation so we have to set up mechanisms to that we can control what you do to protect ourselves.

Others have come up against the them and us divide. You cannot do this because you are not theologically trained. The food bank has to include a minister on its leadership team. The only person who can run the social activity that is designed to reach into the community is a member of the church leadership team. Only those with a leadership role can do things, i.e they can but the also rans cannot.

Can you see why I draw a parallel between using the resources you have been given in terms of people who are willing and able to do the stuff and the talents in the story? Many churches are fearful of using the people that they have to do the stuff. Remember the servant who buried their talent did so because they were afraid.

What happens to those talents?

In the story the talents that had been buried were given to those who would use them wisely and achieve what the master wants to achieve. What do people whose talents are not used by the church do? Some of them move to other churches. Others find jobs that use their talents. So instead of the church caring for the sick church members find employment with other organisations especially the NHS in the UK. Some set up businesses that use their talents and reflect their Christian values. (Everyone CAN Craft CIC is an example of that.)

In other words, the church loses the people who have the abilities it needs to help it fulfill its calling to serve the community. What happens to the servant who buries its talents rather than using them? They are cast out into outer darkness i.e. they are separated from the master they say they are serving. A scary thought.

Its nothing new

Churches that have not served their local communities have been declining for years. National and regional church leaders have tried to encourage mission and outreach of various types in various ways. Despite this the response to the medical crisis that started in 2020 has exposed many weaknesses within the church.

Some ten years or more before we had even heard of Covid I made a list of all sorts of issues that could cause serious problems within the community. I tried to tell people that if any of these became a reality the church would be thankful that it had developed some community support projects because it would be better prepared for whatever actually happened in the future. I hated being proved right by the events of 2020.

In fact the scary thing was that I did not fully describe the issue that really exposed the weakness of the community support systems of the church. What is worse it is now looking that there are other things I had not included that are now having an impact. I thought about an electromagnetic pulse caused by a sun flare that knocked out a large part of the electrical supply network. What I did not include was a doubling of the price of gas and electricity that has created inflationary pressures and is forcing those at the lower end of the income scale to make tough choices like keeping warm or eating. The price increase is bad enough. Imagine if the problems created by a sun flare actually became reality. God help us!

It is not just the level of problems that have increased but the attendance at many brick and mortar churches is lower after the upset created by Covid than it was before. Some people have lost the habit of attending church. Many wonder why should they bother because they have learnt that they do not need the local church to have a fulfilling spiritual dimension to their life. They can listen to all the teaching that they want of the type and style that suits them and may even be fed better than they were when they attended church regularly. They can also join prayer groups and discipling groups without leaving their home.

They can connect with God by themselves and for themselves without being dependent upon a professional. Why stay when they can get all they need elsewhere? People who have talents that the local brick and mortar church could use are voting with their feet and no longer going to church. If they had been able to use their talents in the service of the church they would have had more reason to stay.

How can Everyone CAN Craft respond?

It is not as easy you might think. We believe that crafting is a brilliant mechanism for reaching out into the community and connecting with people but who are the people that Everyone CAN Craft should be trying to connect with.

  1. Those who are involved in church leadership. The aim would be to encourage them to enable those with creative abilities in the church to start one or more craft groups with an activity that suits both them and the section of the community they are trying to serve.
  2. Those who have crafting skills and want to do something under the auspices of the church.
  3. Those who have crafting skills and just want to do something even if the church does not support them or even opposes their efforts.

It gets worse as we believe that craft groups can be used as undercover healthcare or social care projects. The craft group Susan helped run from February 2016 to March 2020 fitted into the social care category as it provided an enrichment activity for people with learning difficulties who had additional needs such as being a wheelchair user. That adds an extra dimension in the sense of encouraging those with a professional or personal interest in a particular issue to serve people using the medium of crafting. Yikes that adds three more possibilities

  1. The church leadership could encourage those focussing on the care and support aspect to set up craft groups.
  2. Those with caring or support experience could start a craft group in conjunction with the church.
  3. Those with caring or support experience could start a craft group with the culture and values of the church but independent of it.

In other words, each of the three categories of people who could be involved in setting up a craft group could be multiplied many times over as they are working with people facing different challenges. Craft groups are very versatile. They can serve those recovering from domestic violence or molestation as a child or a physical health issue. It all depends on the talents (i.e. abilities and experience) that those running them have.

Each of those six groups and possibly others we have not thought have different reasons to set up a craft group. Those reasons need a slightly different approach. to encourage them to develop a craft group. The way that you do that is that you run a taster course targeting each of the six groups.

How do you run a business by simply offering free mini-courses?

The simple answer to that is you don’t. After the taster course you invite people to a paid workshop to help them develop a project plan that helps them reach their goals. After all Susan has the qualifications necessary to work as a business start up trainer here in the UK and the experience of running a specialised craft group in a church setting and a not so specialised one in a community setting.

It does not matter what sort of craft it is. It could be something related to yarn that primarily attracts the ladies such as knitting or crochet or general yarncraft that includes peg loom weaving. It could be a craft primarily enjoyed by men such as some form of wood-working. It could be knitting for those who have limited use of one hand or arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Or it could be woodcarving for those with additional needs Deciding who you are serving and how you will serve them is one of the things that will be covered in the workshop as you develop the project plan.

The workshop is supplemented by the things for sale in the Everyone CAN Craft Shop and in due course by the resources available for members of the Everyone CAN Craft Club. It all neatly fits together with the community benefit statement of Everyone CAN Craft CIC.

So what is your response?

We hope it is to signup for a free taster course. You can sign up at everyonecancraft.club/registration That is where you can chose which taster course best suits you. The aim of the taster course is to give you an idea of the benefits that running a craft group will bring you. You can then decide if the follow up workshop will help you achieve your goals.

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