Last week I shared some arguments for limiting the reliance on paper based crafts (including handouts, worksheets, cut and paste etc) in children’s ministry settings. Over my next couple of posts I’m going to explore some alternative ideas.
One of the main reasons children’s ministry leaders tend to rely on paper based craft is the ease at which they can be prepared. Many purchased curricula provide photocopiable hand outs, or workbooks. It’s just so easy to whip up a simple craft and run it on the day. Considering alternative options can take more time and forward planning, but the children in our programs and the content we are passing on is so important, it’s worth the extra effort.
When looking for alternatives to quick paper based crafts I try to find ideas that last. I call it ‘Craft that Keeps’. The basic tactic is to aim for a more complicated craft, one in which the finished product is worth keeping and can reinforce the big idea in the current set of lessons.
To do this you need to know your material. Study your upcoming terms worth of curriculum, locate the key points/story concepts you want the kids to take home and then go searching for a suitable activity that can reinforce what you’re teaching. The brilliant thing about this approach is that you can spread your activity over several sessions, allowing for the glue to dry one week, painting the next etc. This means instead of having to come up with, say five, separate crafts, you prepare for one and make it last five weeks!
Another benefit of this approach is that it allows you to delve into higher level craft activities than you may have otherwise tried. The kids will be enthusiastic because they LOVE trying new things and pushing themselves to achieve something they never thought possible. You’ll need to practice your craft before hand (or trial it on a willing child) to check that it’s suitable for your age-group. You may also need to recruit more helpers. But if the extra helpers know ahead of time that they’re only required for limited time, it should be easy to find volunteers. Teenage helpers are also VERY keen to help with craft as their leaders have generally decided they no longer need craft, which is never true.
The other key to Craft that Keeps is to consider long lasting mementos – ie nothing you’d be tempted to chuck out anytime soon. The longer children keep a craft the more likely they are to make a mental link to the lesson ideas behind it – especially if you’ve worked hard to keep that link strong during the lessons and activity times themselves. And even if the lesson idea is forgotten, there will likely be positive vibes towards your ministry as an example of an encouraging, supportive faith community that believed in the child’s potential.
Here are some ideas of crafts that keep:
- t-shirt making
- wall mural painting
- model making
- story box making (make all the figures and props required for the child to retell the story at home)
- sewing projects
- picture frames
- clay sculpting
- nativity set making
- candle holders
- recipe books (more about this next time)
- etc Remember – think about your lesson’s big ideas and choose your craft around that! If you Google ‘Bible crafts’ you’ll likely find lots of paper based crafts, so be more specific in your search.
I’d love to hear about the lasting crafts you’ve seen or used to remind children about a faith lesson. Please share your ideas and links below!