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Many churches use creative activities to share a message. This could be banners or pictures on the wall or even occasionally take banners out onto the streets. Other use creative worship such as drama or mime, marching banners, dance routines, pageantry complete with costumes and even puppets with the intention of sharing a message. Creative activities are seen as a way of connecting with people but the intention is to share a Bible-based message.

During lockdown some have done prayer meetings in the form of Facebook lives. Some of these have included a table covered with visually interesting items such as pictures, candles, three dimensional such as a wooden cross. Others have read poetry or shown a series of images. The aim being to use creative means to help people connect to God.

There are two further ways that creative activities can be used. One is that they make it easier to connect with other people. The other is that they make it easier for someone to connect to their inner being.
Groups that I know of whose primary purpose is connecting people are set up with the aim of
• making items for charity so they can share love of God with those outside the church
• occupying or entertaining a specific age group either old or young
• providing a safe place for those who are lonely or who need additional support
• connecting with people in the community
• providing a way of improving the wellbeing of those who attend

How many church folk know about crafting as a therapy?

Those who do crafts know that this is a side benefit. Or at least know that they get more out of it than just the finished product. It is a side benefit that is not always promoted as a reason to do crafts so is often overlooked. The thing about crafting in a church context is that it uses resources that they already have i.e. building and people who can make things.

Some people go on and set up crafting businesses. For most this involves making things to sell at local markets or on specialised online market places like Etsy. In addition to promoting crafts as a therapy I want to be able to help people set up businesses and to be honest a craft group in a church context could be run as a prototype business. A means of helping people develop the skills needed to make a success of their own business. Remember the ideal woman in Proverbs 31 was a serial entrepreneur who made garments.

Therapeutic crafts is not Messy Church

Messy Church is what it says it is i.e. a way of doing church while making a mess. Sometimes that mess can be created by nature activities. Other times it can be created by science-based activities. The best-known form of mess is that which is created by craft activities.

Yes, it is fun and attracts many people but the clue to what it is in the name i.e. Messy Church. This is another way of doing church. The aim of most activities is to get a particular point across about God or the Christian life.

What is therapeutic crafting?

It is setting up what seems to be a perfectly ordinary craft group but with an ulterior motive i.e. to improve the wellbeing of those who attend. Those who attend craft groups know that they get more out of the group than the enjoyment of making things. They might not always be able to put their finger on it and describe exactly what that extra benefit is but they know that it exists.

Therapeutic crafts is using crafts as a therapy i.e. a way of improving the health of people without medicine or surgery. In itself, this way of helping people is not overtly Christian and can be used by people of faith and no faith alike.

What skills and experience are required?

It does not need someone to train for years as a counsellor or psychologist or mental health nurse. It does need people who have craft skills plus a boatload of common sense and enough Christian values to occupy a fleet of ships. In other words ordinary people.

To have the opportunity to do a bit of extra training to brush up on their skills in terms of praying with others is really helpful. Learning the way that the Healing on the Streets teams operate could be very useful i.e. invite God to come close to someone and help them how He wants to do. Or for more in depth training there are the training packages offered by Ellel Ministries.

I found the modular A and B courses that I did at Ellel Grange really helpful. These weekends away served a dual purpose for me as they helped me survive a particularly hard season in my life. I started the modular A course in a destructive marriage and in one of the early sessions heard two ladies say that they were each the first person they had met who God had organised a divorce for.  By the time I finished the modular B two years later God had done the same for me and I was starting a new life on my own.

From my perspective, this sort of training should be part of the normal life of the church. The idea being that it would empower church members to go out there and do the stuff.  Unfortunately, when I needed this kind of training it was rather thin on the ground and rarely available in a church setting. I had to go out and find it in specialised training programmes like Ellel Ministries.  It should be much easier these days to find now online training is more prevalent.

To be honest it is not so much a case of training people to do this kind of thing but looking out for the people who God has been preparing to run these kinds of groups. Once they have been recognised they need to be supported as there are times when the going gets tough. There may well be times when they need a trusted person that they can go to unburden themselves and get the support they need to keep going.

Why did I write all that?

One reason is that I process things by writing them down and I was in desperate need of getting my thoughts into some kind of order. I had decided to something and was wondering how on earth to explain my ideas to others.

I needed to do this because I am planning on doing something in the next few days. The clue is in the image.

The idea is to explore how we can use crafts to improve the wellbeing of those inside and outside the church. The reason why I included the words “even those you would ever expect to be able to make anything” was that pre-Covid I ran a craft group for people with learning disabilities. These were people who you would never expect to be able to make things but we found ways to help them work as a team with the professional carer they came with. By the end of the afternoon, they had some amazing creations to take home and had had a good time as well.

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