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What is a Work Bee, and what is so wonderful about one?

Work beeIf you’ve ever read some of the old stories, like the Little House on the Prairie books or stories from former pioneer times, you may have come across the idea of a work bee. Depending on the nature of the project needed help with, these work bees sometimes take on various names.

Quilting Bee

Barn Raising

Knitting Bee

Sewing Bee

Church or School Work Bee

What is a Work Bee for?

The purpose of a work bee is to gather friends together so that a specific work project can get done more easily with plenty of people! The work bee serves two purposes, actually. When friends come together, this provides a great opportunity for socializing, for young and old!


Work bee

I think a Work Bee is almost the best of the practical and personal worlds, because you can incorporate both at the same time–and get something done!

From Wikipedia, the idea of a work bee is similar to the idea of communal work:

Communal work is a gathering for mutually accomplishing a task or for communal fundraising (for example through a knitting bee). Communal work provided manual labour to others, especially for major projects such as barn raising, bees of various kinds, log rolling, and subbotniks. Different words have been used to describe such gatherings. 

They are less common in today’s more individualistic cultures, where there is less reliance on others than in preindustrial agricultural and hunter-gatherer societies. Major jobs such as clearing a field of timber or raising a barn needed many workers. It was often both a social and utilitarian event. Jobs like corn husking or sewing could be done as a group to allow socializing during an otherwise tedious chore. Such gatherings often included refreshments and entertainment. In more modern societies, the word “bee” has also been used for some time already for other social gatherings without communal work, for example for competitions such as a spelling bee.

Backbone of the church

Work bee

Our family has attended many church families over the years. The Work Bee idea is common in many churches, and it works. When a job needs doing, you call a Work Bee, and hopefully people show up to help!

However, in one particular church we attended, when a Work Bee got called, EVERYONE showed up! The ladies prepared a simple but hearty meal, and everyone pitched in to do what they could do! Men brought tools, children did their part, and ladies did too! At the end of the day, everyone stood amazed at how many trails got cleared, bushes trimmed, and windows washed! The product of many working together exceeded the amount of work each individual could have done by himself!

Work Bee at Ridge Haven

At Ridge Haven Homestead, we have been working hard to get a dozen or more projects done! See our Homestead Update October 2019 for our current list of projects!

We have had the tremendous blessing of several families come over to help us! In this way, we have hosted our own informal Work Bees at our homestead!

First, our friends came from Indiana! They camped out in their own camper (yes–we STILL live in ours after over a year!), and helped us to frame our camper entry room, where we have our wood stove now.

Wood stove

They also helped us to frame in, fix up, and get the rough plumbing in for our basement bathroom. Soon and very soon, we hope to get a shower! You don’t know how good that will feel!

Actually, they helped us do a lot! Got the skirting done around the camper (rigid foam) and boy, are we glad that that’s done! We are heading towards 12 degrees tonight, and our camper is much more snug with the underside walled off! Paired with our new wood stove enclosure/front room, we are much more comfortable than last winter!

More friends

We have had more friends come and help too! Our boys’ good friends have popped in to help out several times! It’s so much fun for them to work together, compare tools, and check out their skills!

Here are seven good reasons to try a traditional or family work bee.

  1. A Work Bee brings families and friends together
  2. Many Hands Make Light Work!
  3. Friends and Fellowship
  4. Better Ideas Together
  5. The Spiritual Encouragement
  6. General Encouragement
  7. It’s fun!

I’m sure there are other reasons to bring back the idea of an old-fashioned work bee, but these are a great start!

Work bee

Here’s a little more about each reason:

  1. A Work Bee brings families and friends together. This is the most obvious benefit! In the olden days families and friends would gather from miles around sometimes, and a work bee might be the highlight of the year. We don’t eat meat, but I remember well the stories from the Little House in the Big Woods book where the family got together at slaughter season. Also, in a traditional barn raising, this would be a wonderful community gathering, with food, great fellowship, and, of course, plenty of play for the kids!
  2. Many Hands Make Light Work! The more people, the more you’ll get done! ‘Nuff said!
  3. Friends and Fellowship A work bee is a great excuse to get together for some much-needed social interaction! Men especially thrive on having a purpose for getting together! Most men would rather work than picnic! Give men a project, make sure you feed them, and they’ll jump right in! Also, this is good for children to see that useful gatherings can be great fun!
  4. Better Ideas Together Sometimes great minds think alike, but not always! Sometimes, you need a new way of looking at your idea, and your friends may have an even better idea than your own!
  5. The Spiritual Encouragement. This is huge! Interacting with like believers is a real faith boost. Fellowship can help you see your journey in a whole new way. Also, I find it nice to have our children see that other families love Jesus and live for Him.
  6. General Encouragement. Let me tell you–everyone gets discouraged at times. When you participate in a work bee, it can take the focus off of your present challenges, and redirect it to getting something done, which really feels good! So, either if you are the one helping, or the one receiving help, just the process of working together and getting work done together boosts your morale!
  7. It’s fun! Good, old-fashioned fun is hard to beat! It brings no sadness or regrets over wasted time! You’ll have a sense of accomplishment, and fond memories to take home!

Work bee

There you have it! Seven reasons to try an old-fashioned work bee, plus a little bit of our experience with various work bees!

They’re not out of style! So if you have never participated in some type of work bee, you are really missing out. Talk to your friends. Someone has a project that could use some extra hands.

So what are you even waiting for?? Go plan a work bee!

Or come here and we’ll put you to work! ?

12 Replies

  1. I immediately thought of a quilting bee when I saw your title. More hands would get the work done a lot quicker!! Thanks so much for linking up at the #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 7. Shared.

  2. I’ve taken part in some events that resemble a “bee” though we didn’t call them that. It does make so much sense and can be such a blessing to everyone involved.

What is your experience? 💜 I read every comment, and so many times I find that I gain encouragement from what’s shared. ❤️