Extreme crafts – against the odds by Barry Brand

Extreme crafts – against the odds by Barry Brand

This summer BRF has published an updated and expanded second edition of the popular Extreme Crafts for Messy Church by Barry Brand and Pete Maidment. With 80 activities instead of the original 50 it’s been quite a task, as Barry explains.

Writing a book during lockdown might be seen by some as a good way to constructively while away the hours of boredom. The thing is, writing a book of crafts for Messy Church when we’ve been told we can’t meet is a little odd. To be fair, I began writing this book before any of us had heard the word ‘Covid’ and as for ‘Corona’ well that was just a Mexican beer. But here we were, the world had stopped, our lives forever changed and a new way of doing things had to be found.

How as Churches could we connect to our congregations and our communities? It felt like one of those ‘end of the world films’, peering out our windows wondering ‘is anyone there?’ At our Church we started by pre-recording Sunday services and putting them up on our Facebook and newly created YouTube channel. Each week we’d record, edit and upload a service. I’d normally record a prayer craft for it and each Sunday we’d sit back to watch the service and hope it had loaded OK.

It wasn’t long before we looked at other ways of doing things and learning new programs and tech and started to live stream our Sunday services. Live streaming was great as we could interact with congregation comments coming in. Asking for and reading out what people were thankful for and at times, what they were having for breakfast. We found that we had people watching who don’t go to our church, some who don’t even live near the church, some not even in England and excitingly some that aren’t Christians but were enjoying what we were doing.

This sparked an idea for how to connect with our children and families during the week, not just on Sundays. I created a kids TV show that we live streamed Monday to Friday for about an hour called ‘Bearded Barry’s Church TV’ or ‘BBCTV’. I did interactive games, read a Bible story, did a talk, prayed, read out jokes and showed their pictures they’d sent in. I also did a craft that they could follow along too. Each craft was animal themed as our first BBCTV was Noah’s Ark. I did the majority of these shows with my youngest son Freddie as co-host and it was just so great to do that with him. We had lots of people watching live and many more views later on in the day. Running it from my kitchen table was strange as was presenting a craft to a camera but the interaction was great. Here we were in lockdown not being able to see anyone but this felt like a special little family, a community coming together. Cheering each other on during the games, laughing and groaning at the jokes, praising children’s artwork sent in, multiple ‘Amens’ in the comments after the prayer at the end.

It felt a little like Messy Church. Smiling and laughing all the way through and then having that buzz when it finishes and you get ready for the next day. I’d normally try to write a craft a day for the Messy Church book after each show in that buzz of excitement, dreaming for the day that we can meet in person again and try them out together. We started to run our Messy Church live online dropping into different team members houses for crafts, worship, talk and prayer throughout the morning. Families would send in pics of their crafts that we would show on the next one. We started to see that Messy Church was more than a church service, more than the building it was normally in. It was a family and that family was connected even if it couldn’t meet in person. And it was a family that was growing stronger and multiplying.

Covid has been horrible. We have lost family and friends. Our lives have been turned upside down and the world will never be the same. In some ways, that’s not a bad thing. But we have had a time where we have been forced to stop and from that we have learnt and grown. I think we have grown closer. I certainly know more about people in my own church congregation from after service Zoom coffees than I ever did when we could meet face to face.

I started by saying that it felt a little odd writing a book of crafts when we can’t meet but what I’ve found through my journey through the last sixteen months is that families were coming together and doing crafts at home. Having fun, getting closer, getting messy and exploring new ways of doing things. As have churches all around the world – finding new ways to reach people when they can’t meet. This book with thirty new crafts has come out just as we are thinking about meeting back together in churches and running Messy Church again in Covid safe ways. I can’t wait till our Messy Church can meet back again but I’ve learnt that we are great at adapting and trusting in God to help us find new ways and ideas to reach others.

These crafts can be done in groups at church or with families at home if you’re still online or maybe create a pack that can be sent out to or picked up by families. When we first wrote this book it was designed for the more adventurous types, the ones who like a challenge. It was a little ‘out there’ and might not appeal to some. When I look at it now after all the ups and downs and challenges that as a nation we’ve all gone through, I think you’ll do just fine. I’m now a little scared what the next book might be. We may have to up the danger ratings! 

Barry Brand is the Children and Youth Minister at Holy Saviour Church Bitterne in Southampton. He leads a large Messy Church and during Covid took it online. He has written for the Get Messy magazine as well as being part of the Messy International Conference 2019 team. He’s also a graphic designer and runs Brand Creative working with clients like Winchester Diocese and even designing the cover for his book.

For more information and to order Extreme Crafts for Messy Church click here.

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