There are as many styles of church as there are churches. ‘Church’ is the people, their life with God and each other as they reach out to their community and the world. However, there is a current church style that is growing rapidly across the Western world, a fresh expression of church, that many are adopting to reach and embrace previously unreached families in their community – Messy Church.
Yes, you heard right – Messy.
Messy is what life is like for many young families and let’s be honest, for many of the rest of us as well.
Messy Church is a church for adults and children to enjoy together. It is primarily for people who don’t belong to another form of church already. It is all-age, fun and aims to introduce Jesus and to give an opportunity for people to encounter and to grow closer to Him.
The usual Messy Church service includes:
- Some creative time to explore the biblical theme through getting messy;
- A celebration time which might involve story, prayer, song, games and similar; and
- A meal together.
Its values are those of hospitality, creativity and celebration. It models and promotes good ways of growing as a family, in every sense of the word (nuclear, extended, global and local church family). It meets any time during the week, at a time most convenient for people locally and usually meets once a month.
Messy Church follows a simple four-part structure: Welcome, Activities, Celebration, Meal.
There is no great culture chasm between Messy Church and the community at large. Messy Church makes sense to people who are inclined towards God but not towards the established church. According to Mark McCrindle, social researcher, almost 1 in 3 Australians consider themselves Christian but do not attend church. They want a spiritual dimension to their life, yet consider church, as they know it, to be irrelevant.
Nelson Bay Baptist started a Messy Church on the last Friday night in February this year. It took a few months to build momentum, but now, there are 22 families, 16 of them with no other church connection.
Wayne Forward, pastor at Nelson Bay says ‘It is not a magic wand. You still have to work hard. In our experience, the meal is critical for having conversations and building relationships. We have a vibrant Playgroup ministry and Messy Church provides an opportunity of continuing that contact after the kids start school.’
Wayne says ‘I think a key is to think of the Messy Church attendees as a congregation in their own right, not a stepping stone to ‘real’ church. That means thinking in terms of pastoral care, teaching and discipleship, attendance – all the things you would in a Sunday congregation.’
He has linked in with a secular social network for the area on Facebook and was thrilled when the administrator of the site posted to say what a great time her family had at Messy Church. Comments followed such as ‘What’s Messy Church?’
‘It was so good to see someone from outside the church talking so positively about it.’ Wayne said.
Worldwide it is estimated that more than 100,000 people are part of a Messy Church. Although relatively new in Australia, churches here too are finding it gives them a proven structure that connects with their local community, and helps them link that community to God through Jesus Christ.