On Sunday, March 4th, 2018, Scotland was in the grip of the ‘Beast from the East’. This was the weekend we were introducing Messy Church to the congregation and looking for volunteers to help run it. ‘Typical!’ I thought, ‘The day we are inviting people to support this new mission initiative, and no one will be able to get to church!’

Thankfully, it was not nearly as bad as I feared. Around 50 people managed to attend worship that Sunday, and after a short meeting at the end of the service, over 30 people signed up to help with Messy Church. We got underway a couple of months later – our first Messy Church attracting around 100 people. As people were leaving that first time, one young mum thanked me and told me she couldn’t remember when she had last eaten a meal with other adults. It had been hard work getting to that point, and we had lots to learn, but at that moment, I knew this was an opportunity to reach out and share life and faith with those whom God would draw to our church.

We have been running Messy Church ever since, including during COVID-19, when we supplied families with Messy Church bags. Our services have continually attracted 80-120 people. On Good Friday this year, we had our largest-ever Messy Church, welcoming nearly 150 people. We explored the Easter Story through art, games, conversations, food, and laughter. We shared a meaningful journey following in the footsteps of Peter, which culminated in a fire pit service where we encountered the risen Jesus.

Building on that work, this month, we launch our new Connect Project, a mission initiative built around Messy Church that seeks to develop genuine opportunities for discipleship, community building, and service. The project involves creating a number of new groups and events that allow people to explore Christianity in more depth and provide space to respond in faith. This includes various ‘Messy’ Events, such as Messy Pancakes, Messy Movie Nights & Messy Quiz Nights. Establishing Scripture Union groups at the local Primary School and High School, a weekly “Hub” warm space and a new Youth Group for young people in the area. These are instrumental in widening our opportunities for local community engagement for people of all age groups. In parallel, we plan to offer times for folks to engage in short courses to explore faith (Alpha, 321 Course) and discipleship courses, and we are exploring additional initiatives such as a Toddlers Group and Cafe Church.

As the project name suggests, our aims are all about connecting with people: connecting with God, connecting with one another and connecting with culture. We believe God has been at work over these past six years and that He is changing us as we serve and love our community. We hope to see individual lives and our wider community transformed as people discover the Good News of Jesus for themselves.

What has been your biggest learning?

Our biggest learning has been that community building is essential and that it takes time. Establishing positive relationships with people is key if they are to engage with the gospel on a deeper level. As a congregation we have been challenged to move out of our comfort zone, to get to know local people without a regular church connection, and to care for them. We are learning that this takes time, and that we are often vulnerable, but we sense God’s Spirit leading and working in and through us.


Tell us about your biggest mistake or failure.

I think the continual struggle is how we care for the volunteers who give so much to make things happen. We have an ongoing appreciation of just how much work is involved in both preparing and catering for large numbers of people on a regular basis. We have built a steady pool of volunteers who give of their time and talents, and who are becoming much more willing to ‘have a go’ at some unusual requests! We have found that it is always worth thinking through how to make things as easy as we can for those who are serving.


What resource has been most useful to you?

I think the best resource we have has been someone in our congregation with a fantastic gift for administration. The work they have done allowed us to see patterns and to prepare and allocate resources better. During COVID-19, this was essential to continuing the work of Messy Church and meant that the work did not stop.

What has been the most helpful advice anyone has given you?

When we were starting out with Messy Church someone encouraged us to invest in the Messy Church Values (Christ-centred, All-age, Creativity, Hospitality and Celebration). Before we began we spent some time exploring these values and what they might mean for our situation at Stirling North. We return to them often and have aimed to align all our work closely with them. This is not always easy, and I’m sure we don’t always get it right, but in our preparation they continually bring us back to reflecting on how we make events Christ-centred, not just good fun. They remind us to be all-age because our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They challenge us to be actively hospitable, even when it would be easier not to be!


Please tell us your most memorable experience as a missional community.

There have been lots of amazing experiences we’ve enjoyed as a missional community. I am always delighted when I see different generations or people from different backgrounds engaging with the Bible together. I remember one Pentecost I was astounded by the number of different languages and nationalities we had represented at our Messy Church Service. However, a standout memory is an activity we did a few years ago where people put their fingerprints in the shape of a heart onto a picture of our Church building. Over the picture were the words ‘Stirling North Parish Church – A Church Full of Love’. In many respects, this captures well what we are trying to do in our Connect Project.

At the moment the green shoots of growth that we are seeing feel tender and vulnerable, and need to be nurtured. I am hopeful, that by God’s grace, they will grow and produce the fruit of the gospel, and that our most memorable experiences are therefore still to come.

Rev Scott McInnes, Minister, Stirling North Parish Church

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