Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

Messy Hands - Training in Makaton?

Posted by Lucy Moore on 11 Mar 2013 (10 comments)

Trish Hahn writes:

I have a question related to Messy Church and Makaton. As you know our Messy Church is for kids with SEN and we are using Makaton more regularly at each session to include it during worship and story time. I am on a closed Facebook site called Additional Needs Alliance which brings together parents and youth workers within church setting to discuss ways to include those with disabilities/additional needs. So far several people have said that they think use of Makaton within worship would be beneficial to those who are limited in communication.

The question is are there any Messy Church leaders in the UK expressing interest in using Makaton within their own Messy Church service ? If it were widely available in a training or regular setting perhaps there would be more families whose child/ren have disabilities who would regularly come to Messy Church.

What would Lucy and Jane and the rest of the BRF team think about expanding Messy Church into a Messy Hands offshoot to include training and resources for Messy Church leaders?

Any thoughts? Please email us


From Aike Kennett-Brown on

Our Messy church team in Blackheath, London would love to use makaton signs where possible in our action songs - however, none of the team know very much - it often involves someone looking on u-tube (often unsuccessfully) for signs to use for the celebration songs we have chosen - we would love to have some training.

From Trish Hahn on

Aike can you email me on and we can discuss further re. Makaton

From Lucy Moore on

Ruth Filsak has sent this in by email:
I have just read a blog from Trish Hahn about using Makaton at Messy Church and asking for comments. I think all children (and probably adults too) learn better if they are actively involved, so any actions to accompany songs are helpful. I work with young children with additional needs, and we encourage people to learn and use Makaton signing with them.
The difficulty may be finding the right Makaton sign for the words in Christian songs; and of course, children with hearing impairment tend to learn British Sign Language, not Makaton.
There may be difficulty with delivering any formal training on using Makaton in Messy Church due to people needing the official Makaton training licence in order to teach it.

From Lucy Moore on

And Alyson Christy describes the Messy Church she helps at:

On a 3rd Sunday, I help as a communicator at a local Methodist church - although only two present have BSL as their first language, there are others present who have appreciated the 'pictures we draw in the air' as it helps visualise the spoken word

I am a playworker and run an open access play space on a Saturday for 5 - 12 year olds. Two of us use BSL / SSE / Makaton as we speak with most children, this is so that the 2 or 3 children who do use BSL as first language or Makaton to communicate with us do not feel left out - it also enables the other children to grow in confidence as signers and to be more prepared to communicate and include everyone in their activities

From Jane Lewis on

we are just beginning to use makaton at our messy church with one of the mums (who is currently learning herself) getting us started. We are signing the grace we say before our meal. We hope to develop its use as our 'mum' becomes more confident in using it herself. What has been great for us is that it has given someone who has come to messy church for about 18months now an opportunity to get involved and do something - she offered to do this! great to see people taking ownership of their messy church!

From diana on

I have recently started to use BSL at our messay church. Makaton is a form of BSL. It does help to know some basic signs but the main thing is to start it. There is a Makaton web site which is worth a look. Some of the signs in both BSL and makaton are what you think they are for exampl BSL prayer is holding hands together in a prayer postion. With regard to learning it is not necessary to have someone who is registered, as one is not changing for learning. I don't know were you are based, but I have a working knowledge of Makaton and are currently learning BSL

From Lambigginton on

I think its a brilliant idea to make makaton sign more readily accessible throughout messy church. As somebody who uses makaton on a daily basis i think who's would be an extremely useful tool to help to communicate with so many more people. Even to this who don't need it.

From TracyPyne on

As a mum of a tot who is using British Sign Language to aid their speech, I feel passionately about bringing signing in to the worship (not just MC, but Sunday church too!) I would love to know more and possibly get some training in this

From bounty35 on

I know some Makaton and know that it can really help. Not only those with SEN but for those children that are too young to read. I would love if there was a course or something for the team to be able to follow. Having used Makaton in my work, many years ago I know how beneficial it is

From RevSamantha on

Hi, I have an autistic child who is now 15 and fully communicative but we still use basic Makaton and sign language! I would be really keen to include it in all forms of worship, and would like to hear if this thread is taken further.
With prayer