Messy Evangelism

This guide is to highlight the importance of sharing Christian faith in Messy Church.

Messy Evangelism

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who
asks why you’re living the way you are,
and always with the utmost courtesy.
1 Peter 3:15 (The Message)
 
This is cracking advice for Messy teams: if we want to be better at talking about God in our Messy Church, we need to be ready (so we need to prepare well, in the expectation that we will have the chance to ‘speak up’). We need to be living it out already (so God-talk comes naturally because we’re already living God-lives and being God-people), and we need to be hugely respectful of Christ already at work in the other Messy person’s life. However young or old they are, however new or old to church, whatever their life has been up to now, we need to treat them with utter courtesy because we’re treading on holy ground where God is already working.

 

  • PRAY: Encourage your team to pray about the Messy Church beforehand, on their own and together as a group. (1) It means God’s at the heart of it all. (2) It takes things into a different dimension. (3) It reminds us it’s not about us or egg boxes or old socks but about God. (4) It reminds us we’re not in this on our own when we’re feeling tired, scared or inadequate. (5) It opens up spiritual stuff we can’t tap into any other way. (I don’t know why, it just does.)

  • THINK: What is the good news for people in your Messy Church? What is  the gospel in a nutshell? Which gospel do they most need to hear? The good news that we are unconditionally loved? That we are part of a supportive loving family? That here is one person who will never let us down? That we can be forgiven? That our life has a meaning and purpose? That Jesus opens up a way of justice? That he knows what it means to suffer? That there is life after death? That life with him is full of opportunity? Or…?

  • PREPARE: Be prepared and read through the day’s passage beforehand. You’d be surprised how many team members don’t even have a Bible, let alone open it up before Messy Church. So give everyone easy access to the Bible passage from the first moment you email out the plan. Bible Gateway is great—just put in the reference, copy and paste. (Or buy everyone a Bible and a load of sticky notes.)

  • PERSONAL #1: What intrigues YOU about this passage? What do you like about it? What puzzles you? What’s your personal connection with it? When you first read it, how did it grab you? Has it popped up at any significant times in your life? How does it mesh with your story? God won’t speak in the same way through this passage to others, but if you can work out why you are excited about it, and what makes it real to you, that will help in your enthusiasm and confidence to spend time with others in the company of this passage. ‘I love this story! Do you know, when I first heard it, I was six years old on a beach in Cornwall and I thought it was the most wonderful thing I’d ever heard.’

  • PERSONAL #2: What’s your faith story? Why are you a Christian? What has God done in your life in the last week, month or year? If he hasn’t seemed   to do much, try asking him to do something amazing that you can talk about before your next Messy Church. Be ready to share your own story—it is incredibly powerful to hear someone share what is real to them.

  • PRACTISE: At your team gathering beforehand, spend two minutes in pairs and practise giving your introduction to the activity to your partner, just to get it clear in your head how your activity links with the theme and what you want to highlight in the happy chaos that is Messy Church.

  • PRETEND! If you think you’re rubbish at talking about God, think of someone you know who is good at it—like Sid. As you lead your activity, think, ‘What would Sid say? How would Sid respond to that comment?’ and try saying what you think Sid would say, in the way Sid would say it. You’ll get confidence from this and find your own style with practice. And remember that one of the advantages of being a team is that different styles are good: one Messy person may find Sid’s style hard to take but your style suits them… or vice versa… and that’s OK!

  • LISTEN: As the conversation or activity gets underway, listen to what people are talking about, watch carefully what they’re doing, and join in at the level they need. Listen for the God-opportunities, the give-away comments, the attitudes that often hide under a laugh or a scribble but give you a clue how God is working in someone’s life. Affirm anything people say or do that is godly: mention it, smile at it, touch it, let your eyes show you appreciate it. Wrap people in your present-ness. ‘I’ve never thought of that before: you’re right, God is like that.’

  • ENJOY spending time with the other person in the company of the story. What you do and how you do it, and how you say what you say, count far more than the actual words you say. ‘I’ve been looking forward all month to this Messy Church! I love this story!’

  • EXPECT to discover God in the other person’s conversation and actions, and when you do, affirm it and rejoice in it together. Remember, some people, especially younger ones, may express their spirituality in their play or actions rather than in their words.

  • QUESTIONS are good to get a conversation going, but use open-ended questions instead of ‘Let me demonstrate your ignorance’ questions. ‘I wonder what you think about that? How does that make you feel?’

  • ASSUME that people are interested in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, in church, in the Bible at some level. They’ve chosen to come to Messy Church, after all. So don’t be embarrassed about God. You can work on the assumption that God has already lit a spark in them, however tiny that spark may be at present. Blow too hard and you’ll blow it out, but blow gently and the spark will start to grow into a flame. (If someone goes into a shoe shop, they’re interested, at some level, in shoes; they’d expect the people in the shop to mention shoes, and if every shop assistant shied away from mentioning shoes, they’d go elsewhere to find something to put on their feet. If someone comes into a church…)

  • VALUES: If in doubt, go back to the five Messy values:
  1. Be CHRIST-CENTRED and remember all the time why you’re doing Messy Church.
  2. Be ALL-AGE and expect the oldest and the youngest to want to meet God through you.
  3. Be HOSPITABLE and make space for people to hear about God and to process those thoughts in their own time.
  4. Be CREATIVE and play alongside people, letting the play speak of God, as well as being a talking book yourself.
  5. Be CELEBRATORY and enjoy celebrating who God is alongside Messy families

 

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