It has been said that God is in the details. Well, the details are what often snag you up when you begin a prayer shawl ministry. Here are a few things my congregation and I have learned over the years:
1) Only accept new yarn that is soft and suitable for the shawls.We have made shawls with a sturdier yarn for certain situations, (like our young people who will take it to college), but we always use new yarn. Sometimes people will want to donate yarn stored in the attic from Grandma’s house or in a dusty closet. It will smell like the attic and won’t produce the lovely shawls that you want to give. If you are taking the time to make the shawls by hand, use quality yarn.
2) Occasionally we will have a shawl come in from a knitter and the smell is not quite as fresh as we would like it to be.Gently wash the shawl by hand in the sink, and dry it on low. It will turn out fine.
3) Have someone keep track of the shawls that are given out and who from the congregation requested one for someone.This helps when you report back to the congregation at the end of the year.
4) Include the person receiving the shawl into your church prayers for that week. The heart of the prayer shawl ministry is prayer, so pray for each person through many different channels.
5) Find a uniform pattern that works and in the beginning stick with it. If you have several very capable craftsmen, they can do different patterns later, but in the beginning, just keep it simple. It may help to have one person in charge over the knitters as a “quality control person.”
6) Think about having a donation box for yarn similar to a food bank donation box.Have a handout attached to the box with what kind of yarn you want, and have them pick out say three skeins of the same kind and color of yarn, enough for one shawl, to donate. Our knitters are all on a fixed income, and donations are what keep this ministry going.
7) The gifting of the shawl should be as thoughtful as the shawl itself. Some congregations have cards made up with a picture of their church on the front; some just buy a box of cards with a place to write a message inside. Not every person is gifted is gifted in presentation, don’t assume everyone who gives a shawl to someone will present it well.
There are many different jobs in this ministry. You don’t have to knit or crochet to be a part of this. And you shouldn’t go it alone. Find people who have a gift to contribute and are willing to give. It could be prayer, crafting, organizational skills or just a gift of mercy. As a team come together to work out the details of this ministry.
Gayle has served as a volunteer health minister for her congregation for almost four years. Gayle lives in the foothills of Mount Rainier in Washington State where she works as an educational nurse.