We caught up with Messy Church founder Lucy Moore to speak about planting congregations, science experiments in church and doing things differently.
She was the keynote speaker at the Growing Deep and Wide: Ministry with Children and Families conference recently hosted by the Church’s Mission & Discipleship Council, and also contributed to the Fresh Expressions Summer School.
Isobel Booth-Clibborn, Children’s Development for the Church of Scotland, said:
“Churches across Scotland are offering many different approaches to family ministry and service. We recently held a day conference attended by over 120 people to explore these and encourage the development of Church engagement and support of families. Lucy Moore came and shared about how churches can be deeper in their work with all members of a family and also wider in terms of reaching out to families in their communities.”
What’s it been like visiting Scotland for the Growing Deep & Wide event?
There is so much energy around the Church of Scotland’s involvement with Messy Church. When denominations support it as a movement it makes a big difference and means it’s owned locally rather than just existing in a vacuum. Isobel Booth-Clibborn [Children’s Development Worker] and Reuben Addis [Messy Church Coordinator for south Scotland] did a fantastic job organising the event.
Every time I meet people running Messy Church I feel a sense of awe – many people aren’t ordained ministers and have never led anything before. I find it inspiring to meet people effectively planting congregations, helping people come to their local church for the first time.
Can you describe Messy Church to someone who has never been along to it?
It’s a way of being church for all ages and usually takes place once a month. It involves a warm welcome, followed by an hour of Bible-based hands-on activities, followed by a celebration featuring story, song and prayer, and finishing with a meal.
After you’ve been welcomed with a cup of typically you’d go off as a family and you’d do as many activities as you want. At every table there’s a volunteer to lead the activity and get to know you. We’ll do construction activities, make something you can take home, and even science experiments which are very popular at the moment. The celebration is a gathering up of the story and another moment to meet God and to pray. The meal is a chance for people to share hospitality – it’s all very relational, like the early church.
Who can take part?
One of the key values for Messy Church is that it’s for all ages. A good Messy Church is for absolutely everybody. A Messy Church should not just meet the needs of children, but teenagers, adults, single people, older people too – it should be an intergenerational set-up. Perhaps that’s how all church should happen? People of different cultures and faiths are also finding a warm welcome in many Messy Churches.
How did you set it up?
It started in 2004 because we really wanted to share the Gospel message in our parish and we felt the traditional Sunday service wasn’t meeting the needs for families in particular. We felt the best way of meeting the needs of children, in the first instance, was to provide something for all ages. We asked around local families and prayed a lot and we came up with the idea we called Messy Church.
Why do you think families should come along to Messy Church?
They’ll have a wonderful time. It’s very gentle and accessible. A lot of people want to make more time to play with their children but maybe don’t have the time or the space at home. People can come to church to do science experiments, cooking, painting and so much more. It’s a really lovely way to encounter and learn what it means to follow Jesus in a family setting. Another reason is that it’s a great way to feel part of the local community. This is a way for creating a spiritual experience for the whole family.
What is different about Messy Church?
A lot of people think Messy Church is a way to get people to Sunday church but that isn’t what we’re trying to do. We see it as a congregation in its own right.
Why do you the think the Church of Scotland can benefit from Messy Church?
What Messy Church gives is a wide-open door for people who wouldn’t normally belong to church – it meets people at where they’re at. It’s a way for people in the local community to discover what their church can offer. Another positive is that it grows leaders because a big team is needed, so lots of people have the chance to serve. You’re training twenty or thirty people up in sacrificial leadership roles – maybe some will also discover a vocation to church leadership in other spheres.