Photos courtesy of JJ Benson Campbell/ originally published August 2016
JJ Benson Campbell of Clinton loves connecting with others through her work at Vertical Church. But she has another form of ministry as well—her crochet business “Always in Joy.” What started out as simply learning a new hobby has become a way for her to learn more about herself and encourage others.
It all began in 2010 when JJ was attending Mississippi College. She decided to try her hand at crocheting one Christmas Break. She bought some yarn and hooks and learned the basics through YouTube videos. She also turned to her great-grandmother, an experienced crocheter, to hone her skills.
JJ began using any free time she had at school to crochet. “I was so bad,” she said with a laugh about her first projects. “But I was so proud.” Even when a piece didn’t turn out like she wanted, she would unwind the yarn and start over again, practicing continuously.
Crocheting soon became a new creative outlet for her. “I became attached to it because I enjoyed learning new things and working with my hands,” JJ said.
For a while, she was simply making gifts for herself or for loved ones. It wasn’t until 2012 that she began selling items. As an MC student, JJ always enjoyed going to the Olde Towne Clinton Market, so it made sense for her to start there. “I wanted to plug into the community,” she said. “So I decided less than a month before my first fall market to have a booth.”
“Always in Joy” became her brand, the name originating from JJ’s desire to see the joy in everything around her and how she hopes that people feel joy whenever they see or wear her products. Her first market was a success. “It was awesome,” JJ said. “I was so surprised people wanted to buy my stuff.” “From then on, I was ‘hooked,’” she added with a smile.
While she was thrilled to have people buy her handmade items, JJ mostly enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with the customers. “I’d say that my experience selling crochet and running a booth has enhanced my love of small talk and encouragement,” she said. “It became an avenue to meet new people and share about my church and about Jesus.”
In fact, JJ sees her hobby as a ministry in itself.
She and her husband Luke have both worked at Vertical Church since its beginning in 2014. JJ serves as director of communications, and her job centers around making people feel welcome and connected. “Whether it’s communicating about events, encouraging people through social media, or following up with first time guests throughout the week, my role at Vertical centers around hospitality and relationships.”
JJ said that her crocheting business has helped grow her love of community. “I’ve learned so much about interacting with people, how to go the extra mile, and how to really engage in active listening.”
Just like her crochet brand, JJ tries to live out the “Always in Joy” mentality. “I honestly believe that you can find joy in everything. It’s all in your attitude,” she said. “One of the major lessons that I’ve learned over and over in my walk with Christ is that joy is a choice. You can choose how you react to situations whether they are good or unfortunate. We can’t control our circumstances, most of the time, but we can control our attitude. I make an effort to be joyful by not focusing on the negative, looking for solutions to issues, and trusting God.”
Crocheting has also opened her up to creativity in other areas of her life. “I realized that if I can learn how to crochet, I can learn how to do anything,” she said. “I love jumping around from activity to activity. Recently, I’ve started baking and decorating cakes. I’d also like to pick up weaving, as well as learn different types of crochet. My goal is to have different crochet items like bags and baskets for sale at my booth this year.”
From the trial-and-error stages of crocheting to taking a break altogether due to wrist pain, JJ has learned about the importance of persistence and fostering that quality in others. “To learn a new hobby, you have to be willing to fail,” she said. “I think the fear of failure and not being able to do something perfectly the first time hinders people from trying new things. I think being honest about my progress in new areas, keeping a positive attitude, and persevering through new skills encourages people to try new things. There’s something so special about watching someone realize they are passionate about something new even if it goes terribly the first time. It’s good to fail forward!”
“Everyone needs a fulfilling hobby,” JJ added. “When you find one, lean into it, learn everything you can about it, and bless people with it.”
Some of JJ’s crocheted items will be available at her Olde Towne booth this upcoming fall. You can follow JJ on her blog: alwaysinjoy.wordpress.com.