Take an energetic group of preschoolers, add some painting, stories and singing, and you have a fun children’s program called Happy Hands Art Time.
Carolin Schmitz came up with the concept when she was serving as children’s ministries leader at Nunawading church (Vic). The first program ran in 2011 as a local community outreach.
Since then Happy Hands has taken off—it’s now in 10 locations across Victoria and one in Sydney, with a second Sydney location launching next term at Mona Vale church.
“God obviously had plans [for this ministry], we have never looked back,” Carolin says.
The not-for-profit program, aimed at children aged 1 to 5, runs for one and-a-half hours each week. It is designed to encourage creativity, exploration and messy fun. In 2016 it was recognised with a “What’s On 4 Kids” award.
For those running Happy Hands, the beauty is that the program and craft resources are all provided by Carolin so there’s no need to rack your brain thinking up what to do each week. There’s also a weekly support video and Carolin provides all the training needed to get the program up and running.
“We take the hard work out of it,” she says. “Our whole mission is to support churches wanting to outreach and build bridges with their communities.
“All of our sites have waiting lists; the demand is there.”
Wahroonga Adventist church (Sydney) was the first venue outside of Victoria to run Happy Hands. According to leader Rahela Matic, the program has received lots of positive feedback.
“I heard Carolin giving a presentation on the Happy Hands program when I was visiting another Adventist church and was excited to hear about it,” she says.
“I thought that it would be great to run Happy Hands at Wahroonga for community families and our families. I liked that it was organised and craft provided and we wouldn’t have to think of what to do.
“The kids love coming. They talk about Happy Hands at home and can’t wait to show off their artwork to family. They sing [Happy Hands] songs during the week at home.”
Happy Hands is successfully building connections and breaking down barriers. Some of the families have gone on to attend other church programs and events.
For more information about Happy Hands go to www.happyhandsart.com.au.