by Clark L. and Kathyryn H. Kidd
It’s August, and with the cool days of August come thoughts of snow, hot chocolate, Christmas carols, Santa and – hold on there! It’s bad enough when the stores start advertising for Christmas in October. All we need is for church auxiliaries to start planning for Christmas in the dog days of summer. But summer is precisely the time when you should be preparing for your Christmas craft day, if you’re going to have one. If you wait until October, you might as well not have a Christmas craft day at all.
And what’s so bad about that?, we hear you ask. Crafts are so 1980s. Nobody wants to do crafts in the 21st Century! Who wants to make purple grapes or design yet another Christmas wreath out of aluminum cans? And why in the world would any sentient activities leader even consider a Christmas craft day?
Yes, it’s true that crafts are out of favor in these days of enlightened enrichment. However, crafts are only out of favor because people persist in thinking of crafts as crafts. DO NOT BE FOOLED! Crafts are only crafts on the surface. The truly crafty person (and that’s crafty in the sense of smart, rather than in the arts-and-crafts sense) understands that doing arts and crafts projects has very little to do with the end result, and very much to do with a whole lot of other factors. It’s those factors, rather than the crafts themselves, that are at the heart of what you’re trying to do as an activities leader in your ward or in your ward auxiliary.
The single mission of the Church is to bring souls to Christ. You may not think of crafts, and especially not a Christmas craft day, as a way to bring souls to Christ, but not everyone responds to a rousing sermon or a cottage meeting. The making of crafts performs several vital functions as far as fulfilling our mission is concerned. Here they are:
The bottom line is that crafts are things you do with your hands while you’re making friends with one another. And the sense of community that comes when people sit down and do things together is the glue that binds the people of the ward together. Show us a ward where the women sit down together to talk – whether that be in cooking classes, in craft projects, or even in a monthly “Lunch Bunch” or game night – and we’ll show you a ward where people care about one another. Developing compassion and a sense of community are two ways right there of bringing souls unto Christ.
Doing crafts gives people a sense of achievement if (and only if!) the person who chooses the crafts takes great care to make sure the crafts are absolutely foolproof. People who gain more confidence in one area will naturally have better self-esteem, and this affects a person’s ability to perform in other areas. Giving a person confidence to serve is another way to bring souls to Christ.
If you teach skills instead of just projects, you can uncover talents that people didn’t know existed. In fact, we’ve seen several instances where people took the knowledge they learned in church craft classes and developed successful home businesses or careers. Learning new skills can provide stay-at-home mothers with extra income, giving the family a better standard of living or keeping them out of debt. Allowing mothers to stay at home is a way to keep the next generation close to Christ.
Having a Christmas craft day is a terrific opportunity to bring nonmember friends out to church, or to lure out ward members who would otherwise never darken the door of a meetinghouse. If people can feel that bond of friendship, they’ll come back. And in the process of socializing, they may gain a testimony that will keep them coming to church long after craft day is over.
If you choose to allow the young women to participate, this provides and opportunity for mothers and daughters to work together and strengthens family unity.
Now that you understand that crafts are only the incentives to provide several gospel-related opportunities, let’s talk about how to make your Christmas craft day a successful event that will become a ward tradition. In order for the craft day to succeed at any of the above goals, the event has to feature terrific crafts that are foolproof as well as being quick and inexpensive to make. You may want to offer an assortment of crafts to appeal to people with a variety of interests. Some people want to make decorations such as wreaths or lawn ornaments or advent calendars for their own use. Others want to make great homemade gifts that will save the family money over the holidays and still provide presents that people want to receive. Others want to make holiday food items to give as gifts or to serve their own families. Others want to make seasonal clothes or accessories. Christmas craft books and internet sites can provide thousands of crafts that are suitable for your group. The criterion for any craft should be that it should be something you’d buy in a store if you saw it for sale. (That eliminates every craft ever made with bleach bottles!) And there should be some crafts that cost very little, so even people with limited resources can participate without feeling left out.
You’ll need to decide who is invited to your craft day. Most wards invite only the adult women (and sometimes their teenage daughters, as previously noted) to craft day activities, but some brave wards make craft day a family affair. No matter what you decide, a line has to be drawn in the sand in that young children cannot be allowed to be anywhere in the vicinity of the place where adults are working on their projects. If this means you have off-site sitting (perhaps provided by some of the male ward missionaries, if you’re going to have nonmembers in attendance!), that’s fine. But young children distract everyone, they could destroy the works of art in progress, and – most important – they could easily be injured by glue guns or hot irons or other electrical appliances that are used in the making of the crafts. That being the case, most wards choose to invite only adults to craft day. If your ward makes it a family event, logistics are going to be a nightmare. But it can be done, if you’re brave and resourceful.
If we’ve persuaded you that a Christmas craft day might not be a bad idea after all, here is a general outline of how it may be done. As always, these are just general guidelines. You may have ideas that are better, and if you do we’d like to hear about them.
Those who are planning the activity should meet at the end of summer to select six to twelve worthwhile and appealing items that can be made quickly and inexpensively. Remember the rules of choosing a craft:
It has to be foolproof.
It has to be inexpensive.
It has to be something that WILL be finished before the day is over, because nobody is going to go home and finish a craft no matter how much a person thinks she’s going to finish it when she gets home, it isn’t going to happen.
It should be completed in 30-90 minutes, even by people who are not as good with crafts as you are. This will appeal to those who can only attend for a short time. But for those who can stay longer, having quick crafts gives them the opportunity to learn several things and mingle with several different groups throughout the day.
It has to be something that is nice enough that you’d expect to see it in a store. Even if crafts are only incidental to the reason we really have craft day, the crafts have to be good enough to entice people to come.
Given a choice of a craft project that teaches a skill or one that doesn’t, go for the better craft – but if they’re equally good, go for the one that teaches the skill.
Create one prototype of each item and calculate the estimated cost and the estimated time to make the item. Display the sample projects along with sign-up sheets (include the cost and time estimate on each sheet) outside the Relief Society room for several Sundays. Encourage women to sign-up for as many projects as they have the time and energy to make. Payment is made at the time of sign-up, in order to give teachers the opportunity to purchase all the materials before the event.
If you’re going to encourage people to bring their nonmember friends and neighbors, there has to be some way to give ward members a price list with pictures of things that are going to be made, so their friends can sign up. In these days of digital cameras and cheap color printers, this is a lot easier than it used to be!
As you’re planning your craft day, don’t limit the pool of available talent for teaching your classes. If you don’t have crafty women in your Relief Society, there are many people in your own community who have excellent craft skills and would love to teach them to others. In fact, getting a talented nonmember friend or neighbor to teach a class is an excellent way to get her out to the craft day!
To make the activity more successful and reduce the amount of work involved, several wards may wish to join together and share the costs and responsibilities. For example, one ward may be responsible for craft classes, one for the luncheon, and one for set-up and clean-up. Also consider inviting the Young Women so that moms and daughters can enjoy working on projects together.
When the project day arrives (usually a Saturday in November or early December), the women gather together in the cultural hall (and other rooms as needed) and spend most of the day (or as much time as they would like to spend) visiting the various project stations and making the projects they signed up to make. Consider including one area where women can gather and work on their own projects which they’ve brought from home. And encourage women who haven’t signed up for a craft to pop in during the day to chat with those who are working – and maybe even lend a hand.) Serve a luncheon in the middle of the day to break up the work and to give women time to visit with each other. An assortment of soups, a salad bar, or a potato bar can make an easy and enjoyable luncheon for a group of busy women.