Being a learner as well as a helper
I wonder what’s going through the minds of your Messy Church team just before everyone arrives?! There will of course be the inevitable last minute panic about resources or food, and whether the craft will work. There’s bound to be the usual nervousness around whether anyone will turn up this this month. And you will probably also have some first-timers on the team who need reassurance that this really is going to be fun! But digging a bit deeper, what else might be in the mind of your trusted and faithful team?
Many, if not all your team, will, more than likely, also attend services at other times in your church and so it could be that some will consider Messy Church as an ‘extra’ they are doing just to help out. Many will be eager to get going, motivated by the opportunity to share the gospel with so many young adults and children who they never see on a Sunday morning. And yet others will be looking forward to renewing friendships that they have been building up over the months and to helping young and old alike go deeper into the Christian faith. All these are good things, and without the sacrificial service of our Messy Church teams, whatever their motives, nothing could be achieved.
However, I do wonder sometimes just how many of this noble army of helpers come to Messy Church in the same way as they would come to a more traditional service. In other words, do they come expecting to meet with God themselves and to learn more about God through all that goes on? Putting it another way, do our teams come to Messy Church as ready to learn and to receive in the same way as we hope everyone will, who come through our messy doors? Having this attitude towards every Messy Church can make a huge difference.
From my visits, it is very obvious sometimes which Messy Church helpers are there to learn and explore with the families around their tables and who are more concerned to be the teachers or the craft experts. And those who come to Messy Church notice this too. It is a truth that those who work with children know well: unless we are willing to be disciples alongside those we are working with, we can’t expect them to want to join us on the journey of faith.
If Messy Church is as much church to us as any other service is church, then it will be obvious by the way in which we identify as co-members of the messy congregation and not just those with a label that says ‘team’. Messy Church isn’t an event or just a piece of Christian service for the sake of others. This is church, where those who are working hard to make it happen for those who come can also be blessed and receive God’s grace through all the encounters and conversations that will happen over the two hours together.
To come to Messy Church with this mindset can change everything, as we become fellow pilgrims with our guests, travelling to discover the riches of the gospel together. So, maybe next time your Messy Church is about to begin, it might be worth reminding yourselves just why you’re there. You aren’t simply a reluctant recruit (hopefully!), not even only a helpful pair of hands, nor even just another team member, but you are part of the messy congregation and God has got things to say to you through the activities, the Bible story and the people you will meet that will transform you as much as you have prayed it will transform others.