What is Messy Church?

Messy Church is missional and designed to reach families who are not ‘churched’ as well as those for whom a Sunday morning does not work. Most Messy Churches gather in a church or hall once a month, most often on a weekday, for example the third Thursday each month from 5:00pm-7:00pm with a Biblical story or concept as the theme. Doors open, there are welcome snacks and refreshments, and folks go straight into about 8-10 activities and crafts relating to the theme for the first hour from 5:00-6:00. This is followed by the Celebration from 6:00-6:20 with prayer, music and story-telling. Around 6:20 a hot supper is served lasting up to dismissal time at about 7:00 when folks depart with a take-home piece to discuss over the next month till meeting again at Messy Church.  Everyone is together throughout the evening – kids don’t go off to do something different – for all aspects of Messy Church. And the Messy Church community grows!

Lucy Moore, Messy Church Founder and Team Leader

The UK Story

Messy Church was started in England by Lucy Moore at her church in Cowplain near Portsmouth in 2004 as a way of being ‘church’ for families, especially for those not part of a church.  Check out Messy Church world-wide at www.messychurch.org.uk. The first Messy Church in Canada was launched in April 2007 at St. George’s Georgetown ON and quickly followed by others across the country. Messy Churches are found across Canada in a wide range of denominations in urban and rural communities, all focussed on building a Christ-centred community that is welcoming and great fun!

What Messy Church Is and Isn’t

What Messy Church Is:

  • Messy Church is a form of church for children and adults that involves creativity, celebration and hospitality.
  • It’s primarily for people who don’t already belong to another form of church.
  • It meets at a time (and sometimes in a place) that suits people who don’t already belong to a church.
  • It typically includes a welcome, a long creative time to explore the biblical theme with activities and crafts; a short celebration time involving story, prayer, song, games and similar; and a sit-down meal together at tables. All elements are for (and should include) people of all ages, adults and children.
  • It’s all-age.
  • It’s fun.
  • It’s a church for people at all stages of their faith journey and of any age – a congregation that is as valuable and worthy of investment as any of your other congregations.
  • It models and promotes good ways of growing as a family: a nuclear family, an extended family, and a global and local church family.
  • Its aim is to introduce Jesus, to give an opportunity to encounter Him and to grow closer to Him.
  • Most Messy Churches meet once a month, although a few meet more frequently or more occasionally.

What Messy Church Isn’t:

  • just for children – It’s much easier to aim a Messy Church at one particular age group, but do stop and reflect on whether the non-verbal messages that this sends are what you want to say about God. If your Messy Church’s teaching, crafts and food are all aimed just at the under-11s, think what message you’re giving both children and adults: church is only relevant/fun/meaningful/interested in you until you’re 12? God is for babies? No, Messy Church needs to be constantly creative in its thinking about how to involve very different people: young and old, families and single people, male and female, academic and practical, poor and rich.
  • a club – The whole of Messy Church is about worshipping God, having fellowship, and exploring Christian faith. It welcomes everyone, involves everyone, values everyone, is always there for the outsider. It’s a church.
  • a way of getting people to come to church on Sunday – There are examples of people starting in Messy Church and deciding to join Sunday church as well but these are the exception rather than the rule. If people wanted to go to established church, they would be going by now. Messy Church is interdependent with established church, but will usually operate as a separate congregation or church.
  • just for church families – Anyone already belonging to church should be thinking about serving on the leadership team of Messy Church, however old or young they are, and helping others come to know Jesus.
  • a quick fix – Growing disciples takes time. Messy Church has only been going a few years anywhere. It usually only meets once a month. Growth will probably be slow.
  • an easy option – It takes money, time, prayer, commitment and energy from the church and leadership team.
  • a drain on church resources – Yes, it will take money and time, effort and gifted people to run it, but it will give back in return a group of people who are fired up for mission, empowered by using their God-given gifts. It will spark ideas and inspiration about what church is all about and will renew vision. It will grow goodwill in the neighbourhood towards the church and, most importantly, provide the opportunity to do effective mission in your own community.
    set in stone – We’re learning all the time. As the network of Messy Churches grows and develops, so the best ways of delivering Messy Church will develop and grow. Messy Church Canada promotes Messy Church in a way that will give God space to grow his church as he wants to, and that it will give everyone encouragement to experiment and innovate.

Our Values

  • Christ-centred: Messy Church is a church, not a craft club, that helps people encounter Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
  • All-ages: It is for adults and children to enjoy together – every element should be relevant and accessible to all ages.
  • Creativity: It uses hands-on activities to explore Bible stories, to reflect a God of creativity and to give people a chance to play together.
  • Hospitality: It reflects a God of unconditional love and is a church for people outside church, providing an oasis of welcome and a safe space in which to thrive. Messy Church is about hospitality, expressed most evidently by eating together – whether it’s a plate of sandwiches to share, spaghetti dinner or other prepared meal.
  • Celebration: It reflects a God of joy who wants his people to have life in all its fullness.

Aims

Messy Church happens once a month, with the following aims:

  • To provide an opportunity for people of all ages to worship together
  • To help people of all ages feel they belong in church and to each other
  • To help people have fun and be creative together
  • To introduce Jesus through hospitality, friendship, stories and worship

Principles

  • Messy Church is not a stepping-stone into existing congregations, but it is a congregation in its own right. 
  • Messy Church is ecumenical and seeks to work with all Canadian Christian churches.