Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

Why not put the Celebration first?

Posted by Lucy Moore on 02 Feb 2018 (3 comments)
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Someone wrote in recently and asked if there was any particular justification for doing Messy Church in the standard order, and why not start with the Celebration? Here’s what I said, in case it’s helpful. You may have other thoughts to add.

  • People need time to feel relaxed and have fun. The activity time gives a gentle way in to those who are in church for the first time. The activity time creates relationships and friendships.
  • Lots of people lead messy lives and would miss the celebration if you put it first as they would arrive too late. Or they might arrive late in order to avoid it and just have the ‘fun’ parts.
  • Giving a very short introduction that explains the story very briefly is all you need to do to help people focus on what the activities are there for.

  • People are building bridges in their imaginations between their own world as they do the activities and the world of the Bible – this then comes to a climax in the Celebration and makes more sense when they have invested in it and have an emotional connection to the story already.
  • Putting activities first subverts what people think church is all about and surprises them, disarms them, makes them curious.
  • The Celebration is the focus, the culmination of the fun and creativity and brings it all together. Often the objects you’ve made are useful to help tell the story or praise God.
  • Giving the freedom of the activities first gives the power and control to the families. If you do the Celebration first, the church is in control. (This may be what many churches actually want!)
  • The meal can go anywhere, of course, but at the end it means that everyone leaves having received something very concrete: a meal.
  • The other parts of Messy Church create community cumulatively and make the meal a very relaxed and safe space where stories are shared and the Spirit moves.
  • The different parts of Messy Church add on to each other, creating community, relaxing people, drawing them together, helping them be increasingly open to each other and to God: the Celebration followed by the meal is the start of being sacramental.

But I would suggest each church needs to decide for itself within the values of Messy Church. A lot of breakfasts happen before the activities or celebration. 


From Kath22 on

We have just been having a discussion at our Messy Church as to where we should tell the story and where we should put the celebration. We think that the story should be before the craft but have issues as we have to use the same room for craft and for food. At the moment we have games, the story, craft, celebration and then the food. This enables the adults preparing the meal to be able to use the tables whilst the celebration is being done in the church.

From Carol Coleman on

We hold Messy Church on a Saturday 4-6pm. When we started, we did wonder how it would work with not having the story until halfway through, but for us it does. People tend to arrive between 4pm and 4.30pm, so if we had it first they'd miss out. On arrival, everyone is given a take-home sheet with the story on so they can read it through if they like, but most just dive into the activities. As they go around they pick up different parts of the message which we can then bring together in the Celebration, plus we talk about the activities and use different things they've made in the Celebration. We then finish with Messy Tea. I'm sure the Celebration wouldn't be as interactive as it is if we did it first as people wouldn't be as comfortable to join in, particularly if it was their first time.

From SMB messy on

In St Mary's we open with crafts and activities plus tea and coffee stations. Reflection area set up, up stairs, throughout the event. We run 3.15pm to 5pm.
Most arriving before 3.45pm.
4.15pm Song, Story, Prayers
4.35pm Dinner together for the children. Cake for adults.
4.50pm jelly and ice-cream.