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The Exhaustion Factor

Posted by Lucy Moore on 18 Sep 2015

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There’s a big difference between the tingle and terror that zaps around the team just before your first ever Messy Church and the less urgent feeling just before your 45th month of Mess. It’s only human – human beings thrive on novelty and innovation, so when things settle into a routine, it can be hard to keep on believing in it in your heart as well as in your head. It can be hard to muster up the energy, to feel thankful to God, to feel inspired to make the most of every minute of the Mess.

It’s only the same as the chemical buzz of falling in love compared with the very different energy needed to cope with an ongoing relationship… especially when the toothpaste tube is squeezed from the middle and the toilet seat remains up. But enough of me.

How can we keep going for the long haul?

Some of the symptoms of a team settling into Messy Church might include

Negatively: niggling frustrations with other team members, frustration with how solely God seems to be working in families’ lives, despondency when people are messier than expected, depression when costs go up or when a team member or family leaves, apathy about the numbers coming, a sense that it’s ok to drop out of helping at the last minute, people creating ROTAS (a Sign of Doom), a culture in which it seems okay to be negative about other people, especially the minister.

Positively: confidence, a good sort of stress that combines expectation and excitement without the terror of the unknown, being relaxed enough to notice what really matters and not to fret about minor details, trust in each other and in God, looking forward to cementing friendships with all ages. I’m sure you can add many more.

What might you do as a team if this sort of exhaustion sets in?

Here are a few ideas to start with.

Dump it all in God’s lap: tell him about it as that’s where the transformation will start. Being Christ-centred starts with us as team leaders – remind yourself who is at the centre of your Messy Church and whose responsibility it is when the chips are down (or indeed when they are being hurled across the tea tables by tantrumming toddlers.)

Talk together! Air those disappointments and frustrations – have the confidence to be vulnerable with each other and to remove all the masks of pretence. Just share the ‘what’s not going as we’d hoped’ and ‘what’s going better than we’d hoped’ conversations.

Listen to newer, quieter people, both those on the team and those who come as families – find out what they love about your Messy Church. You may well be surprised.

Get connected: contact your Regional Coordinator or the BRF Messy Church team and find out what’s happening among Messy Churches in your area or nationally. Get along to training or the conference. Join in the Great Big BRF Mess-About when it launches and visit a different local Messy Church together. Get connected with the wider network around the world – consider twinning with a Messy Church in New Zealand, Canada, the States or Germany! Read one of the Messy Church books you haven’t discovered yet, or the magazine. Check out Facebook pages, Pinterest, Twitter and the BRF Messy Church website and newsletter. Don’t be isolated – you are never alone.

Look out for what God’s doing: look for the signs that ‘Aslan is on the move’ in this ministry and write them down, however small and apparently insignificant. Spring starts with tiny things thawing, not instantaneous fully-leafed trees popping out of twenty foot snowdrifts. Transformation in families and team members and in churches themselves starts often in microscopic ways.

Celebrate! It’s not a core value of Messy Church by accident. Celebrate your team. Throw a party for them to say thank you and hoist the equivalent of banners of love over them, which might be little gifts or cards, or a wonderful cake or simply words of thanks and appreciation.

Catch the liminal energy – the ‘edgy’ energy that comes from doing something fresh and new, but related. Plan a Messy Camp (or wonderfully as I heard recently, a ‘Messy Non-Camp-out Camp-out’ where the families put up tents for the day but left late at night after a fabulous day out together.) Take your team to run tables at a diocesan or district event or a secular festival – at a school or marketplace or park. Recapture that tingly feeling of life on the edge, out of your comfort zone. And remember to reflect afterwards.

Take a risk: maybe now is the time to invite onto the team those young people you’ve been getting to know, or those faithful prayer warriors from the elderly group that meets on a Wednesday or that dad who has been showing an interest although he doesn’t have a clue about the Bible yet. The presence of an ‘outsider’ can help a team to sharpen up its act and quit bad habits that might be dragging everyone down like grumbling, backbiting or being lazy.