Messy Church values are:
- Messy Church is a church, not a craft club, that helps people encounter Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
- It is for adults and children to enjoy together – every element should be relevant and accessible to all ages.
- It uses hands-on activities to explore Bible stories, to reflect a God of creativity and to give people a chance to play together.
- It reflects a God of unconditional love and is a church for people outside church, providing an oasis of welcome and a safe space in which to thrive. Messy Church is about hospitality, expressed most evidently by eating together – whether it’s a plate of sandwiches to share, or sausage and mash.
- It reflects a God of joy who wants his people to have life in all its fullness.
A bit about learning styles
Children are an integral part of the congregation and are both models of discipleship and disciples themselves, as are the adults who play the same dual roles. You’ll see an experienced Christian learning from a less experienced one and vice versa; a child teaching an adult; sometimes one family learns from another en masse; sometimes the Christian community demonstrates how to live for Jesus to those who don’t yet know him; sometimes a parent teaches a child something.
lf discipleship needs a mixture of formal learning, informal learning and social learning, Messy Church has elements of all three as it (formally) explores the Bible through activities and storytelling, provides opportunities for informal conversation and observation, and encourages different levels of social learning both at the gathered Messy Church and in encouragement to take that learned faith back into the home during the rest of the month.
Of the three styles of learning, Messy Church is stronger on the social and informal ways of learning.
Messy Church is:
- Messy Church is a form of church for children and adults that involves creativity, celebration and hospitality.
- It’s primarily for people who don’t already belong to another form of church.
- It meets at a time (and sometimes in a place) that suits people who don’t already belong to church.
- It typically includes a welcome, a long creative time to explore the biblical theme through getting messy; a short celebration time involving story, prayer, song, games and similar; and a sit-down meal together at tables. All elements are for, and should include, people of all ages, adults and children.
- It’s all-age.
- It’s fun.
- It’s a church for people at all stages of their faith journey and of any age – a congregation that is as valuable and worthy of investment as any of your other congregations.
- It models and promotes good ways of growing as a family: a nuclear family, an extended family, and a global and local church family.
- Its aim is to introduce Jesus, to give an opportunity to encounter him and to grow closer to him.
- Messy Church is resourced, supported and enabled by BRF, The Bible Reading Fellowship.
- Most Messy Churches meet once a month, although a few meet more frequently or more occasionally. In the words of Claire Dalpra of The Sheffield Centre: Messy Church is an all-age fresh expression of church that offers counter-cultural transformation of family life through families coming together to be, to make, to eat and to celebrate God.
Messy Church isn’t…
- … just for children – It’s much easier to aim a Messy Church at one particular age group, but do stop and reflect on whether the non-verbal messages that this sends are what you want to say about God. If your Messy Church’s teaching, crafts and food are all aimed just at the under-11s, think what message you’re giving both children and adults: church is only relevant/fun/meaningful/interested in you until you’re 12? God is for babies? No, Messy Church needs to be constantly creative in its thinking about how to involve very different people: young and old, families and single people, male and female, academic and practical, poor and rich.
- … a club – The whole of Messy Church is about worshipping God, having fellowship, exploring faith matters. It welcomes everyone, involves everyone, values everyone, is always there for the outsider. It’s a church.
- … a way of getting people to come to church on Sunday – There are examples of people starting in Messy Church and deciding to join Sunday church as well but these are the exception rather than the rule. If people wanted to go to established church, they would be going by now. Messy Church is interdependent with established church, but will usually operate as a separate congregation or church.
- … just for church families – Anyone already belonging to church should be thinking about serving on the leadership team of Messy Church, however old or young they are, and helping others come to know Jesus.
- … just for families – All are welcome: single, widowed, childless, divorced. Church is inclusive, not exclusive.
- … a quick fix – Growing disciples takes time. Messy Church has only been going a few years anywhere. It usually only meets once a month. Growth will probably be slow.
- … an easy option – It takes money, time, prayer, commitment and energy from the church and leadership team.
- … a drain on church resources – Yes, it will take money and time, effort and gifted people to run it, but it will give back in return a group of people who are fired up for mission, empowered by using their God-given gifts. It will spark off ideas and inspiration about what church is all about and will renew vision. It will grow goodwill in the neighbourhood towards the church and, most importantly, provide the opportunity to do effective mission in your own community.
- … set in stone – We’re learning all the time. As the network of Messy Churches grows and develops, so the best ways of delivering Messy Church will develop and grow. BRF has deliberately chosen to have a ‘non-controlling’, ‘hands-off’ approach in the way it promotes Messy Church in the hope that this will give God space to grow his church as he wants to, and that it will give everyone encouragement to experiment and innovate.
How it began
The first Messy Church began 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 felt they had lovely buildings and facilities but weren’t using them enough. They had creative people in the church, and the area needed as much community-building as possible, being a rather featureless suburb.
There was a lot of sympathy towards church in general but the church wasn’t offering anything that really gripped the imagination of local families.
They decided very early on 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 to grow together in their walk of faith, and and not see Christianity as something you grow out of when you’re 11.
How it spread
One of the original team members was Lucy Moore. As she was working for BRF at the time, BRF became the natural home of the ministry when training and resources began to be needed for other churches to start their own Messy Church. Messy Church is now a core ministry of BRF.
Messy Church is spreading across denominations and countries, with Mess happening in the countries represented on this website.
The challenges include supporting and enabling this worldwide network, especially as it grows so fast. Creating and commissioning suitable resources is a challenge. Funding the Messy ministry and specific Messy projects is a challenge. Guiding the network in a Godly direction is also a challenge as the team reflects on new ways of being disciples in this context.
The rest is history… a messy present… and an unknown future that you may well be part of too!
Accessed from http://www.messychurch.org.uk