Petra Crofton blogs: How God uses our incompetence, frustration and weaknesses to shape something new
“I remember it vividly, even though it was some ten years ago. The volunteer children’s leader at our church left and there was no successor. As the vicar’s wife, I knew our church families well and felt it was vital to offer their kids, and ours, something just for them on a Sunday. I offered to take over, despite feeling clueless and completely out of my comfort zone; I am a scientist and a writer, not a children’s worker…
“Every week we started with a Bible story and prayer followed by games and crafts. It sounds simple, but I struggled! The boys, including our own, were restless from the beginning and would wobble on their chairs, keen to play games to let off steam, while the girls just wanted to get on with the crafts. I silently prayed my way through each session and when the rest of the congregation eventually streamed into the hall for coffee, my heart leapt. Phew!
“To my great surprise, the kids kept coming back, despite my poor leadership. I noticed a need – for hospitality and community. We had many large families that could not afford outings and clubs at the weekend and church offered a welcome opportunity to leave the house. I started running free wildlife craft sessions on a Saturday morning, a wildlife art club at the local schools and invited families to the Cotswolds for wildlife activity days. This I enjoyed, as it linked several of my passions: biology, the outdoors and ‘proper’ crafts (painting, woodwork, collages and printing). I never watched the clock during those sessions and the fabulous fellowship was inspiring too – a lot of parents stayed during the Saturday workshops.
“When we moved to our new parish nearly four years ago, in Barnwood, there were no children or children’s sessions on a Sunday morning. Could we do anything about this? I felt hopeful. When I noticed the park, with an awesome arboretum, opposite the church, a seed was planted. So we started Explore Creation, a monthly Sunday morning session for families. We start with a short game or icebreaker before we engage in a short interactive Bible story and a prayer. We then split into small teams and venture out into the arboretum to follow a nature quiz trail. We have explored different themes, from birds and insects, trees and pond life, to geology, astronomy and even dinosaurs. Children run around, learn a few facts, collect leaves, catch newts, spot bat boxes, rub bark and revel in God’s marvellous creation. Back at the centre, all is calm and orderly again, as steam has been let off and pots need painting, bug mugs are waiting to be filled with bee-friendly bamboo and mobiles and collages are begging to be put together. The boys love it, the girls love it, the parents happily stay and join in. We have a fabulous team. God has been so gracious – I am so grateful!
“If you feel weak and at your wits end in your ministry, don’t lose hope! God can create beauty out of ashes. He is the (pioneering) Potter who moulds our weaknesses and frustrations into something new and marvellous.”