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Top Tips for being all-age in Messy Church

Posted by Martyn Payne on 12 Jan 2016

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Kliederkirk is the name given to Messy Church by our friends in the Netherlands.In their recent newsletter to their own 'Messy Church' family of churches they included some top tips on becoming and staying all-age.We thought you might like to read them, especially number 8 with its recommendations for making adults feel welcome at the meal!

One of the core values of Kliederkirk is that it is all-age. Of course, we make every effort to ensure that children can be themselves in KK, but it's not a children's church! It is a community of young and old who want to discover what the Bible stories have to say to us and what it means to follow Jesus. And not as different generations separated from each other, but by learning from each other. However, that is quite a challenge! So, how do you make sure it really is all-age? These 11 tips should help you all-age-proof your KK!

1.           Stop thinking in terms of volunteers and participants.

KK is as a place to grow in your own gifts and in faith. And that applies to everyone: for the older lady busy in the kitchen, the teenager who accompanies an activity, or the child that is accompanied by an adult. So it is not all about how many children have been engaged in the activities, but how everyone in the community can grow. View all tasks within KK as a potential place for someone to grow in gifts and faith, regardless of age or where they are on their journey of faith.

 2.           Be welcoming to everyone.

Offer an open door to all. Don't just welcome the children with a name badge but pay attention to the adults too. And what about the core team? Are you encouraging team members of all ages? Do you model working across the generations with each other?

3.           Look through the eyes of young and old.

Make sure there are challenging activities for all ages. Think what teenagers and adults will appreciate, such as contributing to a large mosaic, or something involving tools, or maybe flower arranging. Actually, with guidance, young children will also enjoy these too.

4.           Ask good questions.

Are there questions that are challenging for young and old and which everyone can answer at his or her own level? For example, linked to the activity have a Bible text with a question such as: 'What would Jesus mean by this?' or 'What do you find beautiful, difficult, or surprisingly in this story? ' or 'How does this relate to your own life?' This not only creates some thinking space during an activity, but an opportunity for conversation.

5.           Celebrate together: go for variety in the songs.

The celebration is the perfect place to stress that you are a community of young and old. For example, choose not only children's songs, but also songs that appeal to adults. Children will be drawn into a song if an adult clearly loves to sing it; and so often adults find that a children's song says something special to them.

6.           Celebrate together: create patterns of worship in which everyone can participate

There are plenty of worship activities that work for everyone, to which young and old can give their own meaning: for example, lighting a candle for someone else by way of prayer. Such rituals are meaningful to children and adults.

7.           Celebrate together: involve everyone

When you're in the celebration asking questions about the story, encourage and receive answers from the adults too. If this is possibly too much for people who are there as guests at KK, then welcome answers from your adult team. In this way create in your celebration a culture in which young and old share with each other.

8.           Eat together: the meal is for the adults too.

 Hot dogs, sandwiches, pancakes, cupcakes - it's easy to treat children to a party meal, but the adults should be catered for too! For example, serve a fine wine and include savoury snacks!

 9.           Have 'networkers' on your team

Have someone on the team who is free to walk around, to welcome and involve people. That person should be on the lookout for visitors who are looking a bit lost. Maybe they can draw in a young person to help serve at at the meal or link up a visiting dad who may be a little uncomfortable with a grandad on the team who also loves football.

 10.         Mystery Messy worshippers!

Suggest to the team that they invite a friend along (a teenager, an older person, or someone single) to KK as a mystery guest. The team won't know who they are, but ask later for feedback on the welcome, his or her overall experiences and about what areas could be improved.

 11.         Review your advertising.

Look critically at the wording you use in your adverts for KK, on FacebookTM and on posters. Are you inviting only children and their parents/guardians or is everyone being welcomed? And where do you put your posters?  Only at child height and in places where children may be passing?

Creating a community of young and old is a challenge. It starts with being intentionally all-age. But it won't happen overnight. Growing together in faith and as a community is messy! But the place for this can be at KK, where young and old can all develop a childlike faith just as Jesus commends.

Do you have any more tips? Send them to info@kliederkerk.nl or post them on our Facebook page.

Nelleke Plomp, Worship Specialist at JOP

Martine Versteeg, Project Leader Netherlands KK