Creating a church service that caters for people of all ages and backgrounds is not an easy task.
Add in the fact that a growing number of young families view church as irrelevant, and a difficult task looks dangerously close to evolving into a nationwide problem.
Lucy Moore from Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) outlines the situation.
“The problem that we have in many churches is we’ve lost one, if not two, generations. [The church has] lost contact with so many people in the country.”
Thankfully, Lucy isn’t sitting back merely assessing and analyzing the problem. Working with a small team at BRF, Lucy has spent the last 10 years working hard to bridge the gap between communities and churches.
You may not have heard of Lucy Moore, but the chances are a church near you is benefitting from her idea. According to the most recent statistics, well over 1000 UK churches have adopted a scheme known as “Messy Church”.
What is Messy Church?
“Messy Church is for families who find Sunday church or traditional church hard to get to for whatever reason. It’s usually at a place and time that suits the family we’re trying to attract. It’s an all age event and has a welcome time, a time for activities, making things, blowing things up, playing with things and exploring a Bible theme through all of those activities. Then we bring everything together in a celebration with story, song and prayer and finish with a meal together.”
Most Messy Churches meet once a week on a weekday afternoon or evening. The activities are always child friendly, and feedback from parents has been exceptional. Many familes across the UK have been making Messy Church their home.
“There are stories of people being baptized in Messy Churches and a lot of people see it as a way back into church and finding the best way forward for their children. There are lovely stories of people rediscovering what Christianity is all about or finding it for the first time,” Lucy says.
Bringing People Together
Lucy believes Messy Church should be viewed as a separate congregation. “It’s another congregation and another way of worshipping God, which sits beautifully alongside the rest of the work of a church. There’s no way that we would want to be a denomination on our own or replace church in any way.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of Messy Church is how all of the major denominations have adopted the idea.
But Lucy isn’t just excited about the growth of the scheme. Messy Churches have often promoted Christian unity as local churches work together to create a single Messy Church congregation.
“Churches have got together in a village, suburb or town and said; ‘this is too big a job to do on our own’. Or, ‘we haven’t got a suitable building but the church up the road has.’ It’s been a terrific witness to local communities where churches have previously not worked together are now coming together. It’s very exciting.”
Messy Church started 10 years ago when Lucy and her friends planned an all age event for her local church. Despite the current size and widespread success of Messy Church, Lucy says it’s too grand a term to say she “founded” the initiative.
“When it began being duplicating, it was one of those odd things that God seemed to have the right strategy in place. Through BRF we were able to set up a website, offer training and publications. It was one of those little God moments where he had the plan and the right people in the right place at the right time.”
The all age format has been so successful that BRF are currently helping churches in everywhere from Denmark to Australia to set up their own Messy Church.
One of the reasons why Messy Church has spread so quickly is it is very easy to set up. Anyone can start their own Messy Church free of charge. Lucy suggests starting by taking a look at the website, purchasing the Messy Church DVD and book and visiting a local Messy Church to see how others have implemented the scheme.
Not Just For Kids
Lucy is excited about the future of Messy Church, and amazed at how many people have found it useful. But she admits it’s a challenge to change people’s mindsets about all age services.
“We keep banging on and saying this isn’t just church for children. It’s church for everyone, but because we’re so used to doing things with children separately, it’s very difficult for people to understand that and really take it on board.”
More than just being a new way to do church, the scheme is impacting local communities across the country.
“It’s one of those tiny things where there’s a lot of need in our society for families to want to be together, play together and have fun together. There aren’t many places in our communities which can do that and church does it so well.”
Lucy is passionate about Messy Church. She's seen it grow from the beginning and know it works. With churches of all denominations picking up on the project, the chances are there's a Messy Church near you. If there isn't, perhaps now is the time to consider starting one?
March 28th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes