Are you looking at your looking at your church and wondering where all the people are? You look back to the glory days when you used the sanctuary or whatever you call the big room on a Sunday. Now you use the lounge or the side room because it is cosier and you don’t feel as if a handful of people are rattling round a big room.
What can you do?
You know you have to do something to reach out to people but what? You might have some toys left from the glory days but no one has the energy to get them out every week then run the toddler group and then put all the toys away again. Anyway where would you find toddlers who could come with carers. You cannot say mothers anymore as so many children come with their grandmother or childminder because their mother is working.
The other classic activity is the midweek children’s work but could you cope with today’s children? They like the computer games that mean that they live in simulated worlds that you know nothing about. Anyway you know that you would struggle to find the manpower? You might just about manage the womanpower but the manpower could be a challenge because there are so few men in the church.
You cannot do the classic outreach activities of toddlers and the midweek children’s meeting so you feel stuck. Those are the things you thought you have to do to be a proper community church. You feel small and weak because you cannot do the basics.
A more realistic idea that you really can do
As you might guess as you reading this on a website for an organisation called Everyone CAN Craft we have a solution to this problem. The origins of Everyone CAN Craft lie in a craft group that made us realise that it is possible to find an activity that everyone who is breathing can participate in. However, there is another side to Everyone CAN Craft because that craft group was set up by two ordinary woman who managed to partner with God to create the most amazing craft group for people with profound learning disabilities.
The pair of us did not have a clue what we were doing. We knew we wanted to start a craft group for people with learning disabilities and what God used us to do was to set up a very special group for very special people. Not all of them could talk or walk or use their hands. We were not sure how much some of them could see. We had to be careful what we served for refreshments because of their additional needs. Yet when Covid struck and that group collapsed it was a big loss to all concerned. We had been going for 4 years by then.
If that sounds scary maybe it is because you are called to serve a different group of people. We both had experience of working or living with people with learning disabilities so a craft group for that kind of special person made sense. Your kind of special people could be very different. However we dealt with so many different issues it was an amazing journey.
Getting such an amazing group off the ground was as easy as
- Deciding to open the church doors and invite people in.
- Setting up an initial activity. (We used something I had done before in a support group for adults with mental health issues.)
- Putting up posters in local supermarkets and inviting people in
- Holding a prayer meeting instead of a craft session when no one came for the first week or two
- Being prepared to work with whoever God sent our direction
- Being willing to learn as we went along
Looking back because of our backgrounds and previous experience God could trust us with these very special people. He knew we had the ability to love them and the carers they came with. We were tested a time or two as we sat with a professional carer and listened to them unburdening family problems that weighed heavily on us. Yes we were serving two groups of people rather like you do with a toddler group.
Don’t let that put you off. A craft group does not have to be that specialist. You do need to decide who you are going to serve because as we found not all people in the same situation are the same. Some people came for a single visit and found it hard to settle with a group of people who were very different from them. They were not part of the community of interest that we served.
Who will benefit from your project and how?
You could decide to serve those who have been impacted by a stroke and their carers, Or the women that need a break from a difficult marriage or difficult children or those who just need the time to be themselves when everything around them seems to be falling apart. Your group could be a place where the lonely can feel as if they have a family. It all depends on your background and experience. Imagine being able to share your love with others who really need it. All by opening the church doors and inviting people to a craft group.
Doing crafts has many benefits. It does not matter if you are making things with yarn like knitting or crochet, making things with paper such as cards or making things with fabric like patchwork or sewing or wood turning or… (You fill in the blank with your favourite creative activity.) Some even consider knitting to be so beneficial that they use it as a medical intervention.
What do you need to go forwards with this?
Believe it or not you probably have all the resources you need. The majority of women can knit or crochet. You don’t need to be an expert. There again in your fellowship you might have people who can do a variety of creative things that they could share with others. You have a place to meet and almost certainly a kettle. What else do you need?
A bit of courage? Well things like this do take a level of boldness but nothing ventured nothing gained as they say. It would help having some encouragement and practical support from those who have gone before. That is where the Everyone CAN Craft Core Training is very helpful. You have the chance to get together with people on a very similar journey to yourself.
The aim of the core training is to help you think through the essentials. You will come out the other side with a project plan that will astound the minister or moderator or whoever is overseeing your church because it will be obvious that you have thought this idea through carefully.
No scribbled notes on the back of an envelope. They will know what you want to do and why you want to do it and even how you are going to do it. Not only that but you will have thought through what resources you need from the church e.g. which room will you use. They will know you can be trusted especially when they see you have seriously considered the health and safety issues that could arise.
The other thing you will need are some ideas on what to do in the group. That is why we set up the membership programme that provides ideas and advice for those running a craft group. We found that planning ahead helped with the publicity and helped things run smoothly. The core training comes with a three month subscription to the resources