Messy Church
Lucy Moore, The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2006

£8.99 (Approx)
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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

Messy Church is bursting with easy-to-do ideas to draw people of all ages together and help them to experience what it means to be part of a Christian community outside of Sunday worship. At its heart, Messy Church aims to create the opportunity for parents, carers and children to enjoy expressing their creativity, sit down together to eat a meal, experience worship and have fun within a church context.The book sets out the theory and practice of Messy Church and offers 15 themed programme ideas to get you started, each including:

  • Bible references and background information
  • Suggestions for 10 easy-to-do creative art and craft activities
  • Easy-to-prepare everyday recipes
  • Family-friendly worship outlines

What do you get?

Resource book containing 15 programmes to run, the concept of Messy Church explained and guidance on running sessions. Available at BRF.

Who is it for?

All ages, from 0 – 100, this programme interacts with the whole community whether taking part as a child, helping as a teenager or attending with children as an adult.

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Good - clear headings and subheadings with easy-to-follow instructions. The exterior is a colourful and fun A5 paperback cover.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    The aim of each session is written clearly at the beginning of the session outline.

    How accessible are the leader’s notes?

    Very accessible, easy to read and follow. The resource uses a thematic approach depending on the time of year, has clear conceptual information and guidelines on running a session and gives background information to leaders on the Bible passage covered each week. There are pointers for what you will need for each section and directions about how to run each task or family celebration (setting up the church or space).

    Who could lead it?

    The resource requires lots of different leaders. Leaders for the meal preparation and cooking, leaders for the celebration of Church, leaders for crafts and songs. A team of people can work together depending on strengths and experiences, reinforcing the idea of church being a community of people coming together. Teenagers can help children with crafts and people are also needed to clear and clean.

    How helpful are the participants’ resources?

    Participant resources are external to the book and made up of some standard and some less standard craft resources. The ideas for crafts and the resources are very good and act as a reminder of the session for children to take home.

    How good is any digital material?

    Digital material is in the form of external links and resources. For example, songs to sing are from well-known kids’ worship CDs.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Preparation can be quite extensive depending on how many people are attending and how many crafts are set up. Sessions are clearly laid out so leaders can easily follow the template and know what to do but they will need a few helping hands to get it done! The rough number of people coming and any food allergies need to be known as there is a meal together. Food needs to be bought and prepared, craft resources need to be bought and set up and songs and props for the church time need to be ready to go. Preparation will take approximately one hour per session depending on how many helpers are present.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Leaders can subscribe to www.brfonline.org.uk/getmessy for the up-to-date magazines and an on-going supply of new session material. The resource also suggests For crafts ideas and resources, it is suggested that leaders search on the internet searches, Pinterest and Facebook as well as visiting www.messychurch.org.uk.

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    There are so many different interactive options in Messy Church. Children and adults do crafts relevant to the theme (there are approximately 10 per session) and each one has a suggestion of what to talk about in the craft. This can be to do with the craft itself, or how it links to learning about God. Children interact at all stages, in the crafts, celebration, meal and prayers. Children will be interacting with people of all ages and different walks of life.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Crafts as a way of learning work well as children learn by doing, but also from discussion as there are suggestions of what to talk about. The talks work well for visual and auditory learners with props and stories. The stories are not too long in order to keep the concentration of young people.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    Messy Church is adaptable but contains some key building blocks. It is intended to be run mid-week (i.e. not on a Sunday) and sessions run for 1.5 - 2 hours each. They require a kitchen to cook a meal and an area to share it. Messy Church needs an area to get messy with crafts. There are lots of crafts suggestions but leaders may choose to do just a few. Though the sessions are intended for all-ages, they could also be run with children of certain ages. Sessions can be run in order or be mixed up or to suit different seasons in the year. You will need to play music and funding for buying resources. Helpers will be needed for the different roles too which is essential for enhancing the message that church is a community event. Messy Church is extremely accessible to those not familiar with church or Christianity, and for those who can’t make Sunday services.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    Children apply the material in mixed age groups by doing crafts and discussing the ‘talk about’ associated with each craft. Children also apply material in the prayer response of each church celebration section.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Each Messy Church session has a theme and every aspect of Messy Church can be used to reinforce this theme - in particular the crafts reinforce the main celebration. The sessions are suggested to run between 1.5 - 2 hours of which 15 minutes is used for a mini celebration service.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Biblical material is presented as an interactive exercise and the Biblical passages are extended to more understandable stories for children, which are written clearly for leaders to use. The leader up front uses a mixture of props, crafts made in the craft session, mimes, repetition and many more. The biblical material is applied to crafts for children to take home and remember what they have learnt. It is used to apply to prayers, blessings and grace at the end.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Messy Church approaches wider concepts rather than specific scenarios of everyday life. For example when learning about Jesus being the light of the world, children are asked how they feel about being in the dark. Were they scared? Why is it scary? This can be interpreted literally as well metaphorically. Children learn that Jesus is there with us every day of life even when we don’t see him.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    The resource encourages leaders to think about what in their normal Sunday service helps people draw closer to God? As the allocated teaching time is about 15 minutes, the resource suggests including selections from Common Worship liturgy rather than the full version, and to do those well. For example, an opening song followed by a story, followed by a response song, prayer and finally grace.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    One of the key aims of Messy Church is to introduce people to Jesus through hospitality, friendship, stories and worship. Children are given space and time to meet with God for themselves and respond to him. They are given the chance to see how Jesus gave us a new start and are introduced to some possible responses to that.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    Children are encouraged to grow in faith in the craft time and talk time. They learn who makes up God’s family, who Jesus is and what this means for people.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    The layout of Messy Church always enforces that God’s vision is for his people to meet together as one community. It is church without some of the formalities people may be intimidated by. Children are introduced to the fact that God made them, loves them and wants them to do church with other people. They learn very early on that God keeps his promises and that they can have a new life in Jesus.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Real life issues are often covered as part of the overall aim for the session meaning each activity links to real life issues. These tend to be quite generalised, and topics which all people will come across, for example, arguing with family or learning how to stay close to Jesus in tough times.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Personal evangelism is not a huge focus of the teaching of Messy Church as a lot of Messy Church is about people learning in many accessible ways who God and Jesus are. It is, however, evangelism in its own right, and encourages welcoming friends and neighbours. It is indirectly encouraged throughout other themes.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    Extremely well. Messy Church welcomes all people to come to God as they are, and offers an experience of all-age Christian community. ‘One community’ as a concept is taught very early on with a supporting passage from Genesis 12-21 based on Sarah and Abraham; we all belong to the same family of believers. Children learn about hospitality through meals shared each session, and are challenged to think about how they can look after the wonderful world God has made.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Children are given the chance to pray for those in need and other people in their community in some sessions. They may pray for people in danger, people who need God’s love and people who are sad.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    There are two brief references to global mission.

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