“The church leadership decided to try to do something for all ages together, partly out of a belief that we grow best as a church when we walk the journey with as many different people as possible.”
What is Messy Church?
What do you get when you gather families together mid-week, do lots of arts and crafts, sing songs and learn a bible story? Messy Church.
Messy Church is a once-monthly time when families come together to enjoy being together, making things together, eating together and celebrating God together through work, through music and through prayer. It’s different from a children’s afterschool program because it’s an event for children and their caregivers or parents together, and it’s more than a local fun day because of the element of worship that underpins it all.
The first Messy Church began in the United Kingdom in 2004 when a group at St. Wilfrid’s in Cowplain near Portsmouth were frustrated because, as a church, they were hardly reaching any children with God’s story. They had lovely buildings and facilities but didn’t feel they were using them enough. The suburban community of Cowplain had a lot of sympathy towards church in general but the church wasn’t offering anything that really gripped the imagination of local families. The church leadership decided to try to do something for all ages together, partly out of a belief that “we grow best as a church when we walk the journey with as many different people as possible, and partly from a desire to help families grow together in their walk of faith, not see Christianity as something you grow out of when you’re eleven.” Watch the video on Messy Church’s website which gives a good overview of what it’s all about.
Messy Church is definitely not a program that will allow individuals to delve deep into their faith or spend time reflecting theologically. It taps into a family’s desire to be together, have fun, and share a meal with others in the local community. And these are the folks who probably won’t show up in church on Sunday.
Messy Church at St Wilfrid’s meets together once a month after school on Thursdays, when 60-90 people of all ages come together to do crafts, worship and share food. The stated aim of Messy Church is to be “a worshipping community of all ages, centered on Christ, showing Christian hospitality, and giving people a chance to express their creativity, to sit down together to eat a meal, and have fun within a church context.” They’ve even got a model for developing your own Messy Church.
The Messy Church Movement
Lucy Moore, a storyteller and writer with Barnabas in Churches, part of Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) in the United Kingdom, is clear that Messy Church is to be regarded as a church in its own right, not merely a parachurch group that serves to introduce people to the real thing on Sundays. Part of the fresh expression movement, a joint Church of England and Methodist initiative which encourages churches to find different ways of being Church for different people and situations (we might call it “emergent church” in the U.S.), its title is a reminder of the messiness of our individual and corporate journeys of faith, and it also reflects the conviction that the Church “should not only be a joyful mess but one which should make a mess joyfully.”