It’s October. I have just put my flipflops and vest tops on the top out-of-reach shelf and dusted off my winter boots. It is time to start thinking about Christmas. Not because I like the early jingly shop music or being super organised with my cards but because it is the best time to do outreach events. People do like Christmas, there is something about mulled spices and warm fires and carols that even non-church goers associate with positive memories and they are happy to go to church, even if it is for a once-a-year visit.
Last year we did a Christmas crafts event for women – we sold out all 150 tickets within the first week! So we are getting geared up again, starting today!!
First job- book the church, the kitchen and the conservatory without offending the local brownie troop and the Choir master, who were hoping to use our space. Note to self – book it earlier next year!
Second job – find, contact and enthuse helpers. Women who are confident with crafts, good at chatting to newcomers and are enthusiastic about their faith – or one of the above. This year we hope to have two helpers on each table, with the aim being to have at least one Christian. There is a healthy debate about including those outside the church in our team. But ‘belonging before believing’ is a valid concept and we go with the team idea.
Third Job – source the crafts…more to follow next week
Crafts are chosen- ten !
Guests will pay £3 for a ticket. That will include a mince pie( the mini ones are the most popular) and a glass of mulled wine. Then they can make a cranberry heart for free. This is a really simple and popular craft- a piece of galvanised garden wore , cut up with wire cutters. Shaped into a heart ( or a star for the really clever) and threaded with fresh cranberries. Finished off with some vintage looking ribbon.
The next table will have felt matchboxes- red, green and white rectangles of felt cut out to fit large matchboxes. Ribbons, buttons and sequins available to stick on.
Then we have a table for wreaths. We have sourced some dried willow wreaths from the local floristry wholesaler for £2 each. Then we have available cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, little straw bows and ribbon for people to glue, wire or tie on.
Next we have table centres, one of our helpers is a florist and she excels at helping people here. Start with an oasis cuboid and have lots of green foliage, holly, rhododendron and berries to add. Two or three red candles and a few ribbon accessories finish it off. There is always debate about whether a feather robin is cute or naff!
This year we are trying a new craft- decoupage Christmas tree ornaments. Sixty polystyrene balls have been ordered and decoupage papers, sticking with a red and white Nordic Christmas theme. The papers need cutting out and the tops need notches cut in so that they will wrap round the globe shape and then have a little red bead and a ribbon glued into the hole at the top before covering it all with Uni glue or decoupage varnish.
Rustic garlands- hessian type string is available with little salt dough Christmas shapes pierced at the top, cinnamon stick bundles, ribbons and pine cones to tie on. Each one about a metre long, very pretty!
All of the crafts are available for a small charge- between £1 and £4 . We aim to cover costs and any profit to go to Tear fund, but we don’t want to put anyone off coming and enjoying the evening. Most importantly we want them to feel welcome with a lovely atmosphere when they come in. Last year someone said- ‘ wow, I never thought a church could be so warm and pretty’ when she came through the door.
The rest of the crafts to follow next week…
Paper stars- pretty patterned papers are cut and folded origami style into three dimensional stars.
Christmas bunting – we had a popular event in the summer making fabric bunting for the Jubilee and Olympics. We are planning on adapting the idea and using red and green fabric this time as well as Christmas printed fabrics. We cut out the triangles beforehand so that our guests just have to choose and pin onto the red bias-binding tape. Two sewing machine enthusiasts will be on hand to advise or actually do the sewing.
Vases- we have bought 40 clear glass cuboid vases from Ikea. Tissue paper strips and PVA glue will be there and guests can build up layers in shapes or random ripped strips. Leaving them to dry near a radiator before putting them in the back of a car is a great idea, or you can bring a hairdryer to finish them off. Tea lights or battery operated fairy lights look great inside.
Gift tags- last year cards were not so popular so more simple gift tag cards, ribbons and stamps will be available this year.
Ten crafts ready to go, in boxes at our table leaders houses. Gathering , buying, cutting and preparing happens during the next three weeks.
Tickets are about to go on sale…
Three days after going on sale, we are sold out!! Five sell at a breakfast event, 40 at church on Sunday, 20 get handed to the preschool, 20 to the local first school and then word spreads and texts arrive…150 sold. All year we struggle on with well thought out, carefully planned events with about 15 to 20 coming along. This Christmas crafts gathering now has a reputation and life all of its’ own! How exciting! And how difficult to explain to the grumpy people already lining up to complain that they should be allowed tickets, as they came last year and they are regulars at church. Actually we have tried very hard to emphasise that this is an outreach event and that the idea is to all invite at least one friend. The hall should be filled with at least 50 to 60% guests who don’t normally come to church. So if someone comes along telling us about their neighbour who they would like to invite we will try hard to find a ticket for them. Maybe we should increase the numbers to 180 this year???
Phew! We did it! Two hundred mini mince pies, thirty bottles of mulled wine, one thousand fairy lights,forty tea lights, ten craft tables, one obliging keyboard player to jazz up carols and worship choruses, thirty helpers in Christmas aprons and one hundred and fifty women with smiling faces! They queued up in the fairy light foyer, with festive refreshments filling the air with spicy aromas. We opened the doors with party poppers when 7.30 arrived and in they streamed, some of them so keen to start their crafts that they hardly had time to chat as we collected tickets and handed over goody bags. Inside we had put a chocolate nativity tree decoration and an invitation to our Christmas services.
The table leaders awaited with tables, covered in red and green cloths full of felt, greenery, dried orange slices, paper, glue, glitter, ribbons, buttons and raffia. The felt matchboxes were very popular, as were the decoupage baubles and the wreaths. The Christmas bunting was a bit quieter but there were no empty tables and people worked at different paces and were happy to move around. Our helpers moved between the tables, topping up the wine glasses and handing out more mince pies.
Half way through I stepped up to welcome everyone, thank the helpers and invite one of the other team members to chat about where any profits would go. She managed to weave into her story about the local churches together Food Bank the love of Jesus and the full life that He offers through relationship with Him. No hard sell, no corny jokes- just a simple explanantion of faith.
By 9.30 we made efforts to look like we were tidying up, but it took another hour for the keen crafters to actually leave. Some handy husbands then arrived and we shuffled chairs, hoovered raffia and washed wine glasses until 11pm.
Was it worth it? The atmosphere, the welcome, the comments such as ‘I never knew church could be like this’, the sense of the prescence of the Holy Spirit made all our efforts seem worthwhile. Our prayer is that some of these women will come back to more events, will come inside a church service this Christmas and will discover who Jesus is for the first time.
And next year’s craft event is in the church diary already – we are going for 175 spaces next time.