Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

What Messy Church is and isn't

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.