it was good to reflect on Alive@5 at the day of the "Messy Church" event that I attended last week while finishing prep for last Sunday's Alive@5. Lucy Moore is an engaging presenter. I wanted to hear more as what I heard on the first day wasnt extensive or deep enough, and people's questions were mainly 'operational'.
I found myself wondering why people are so interested in Messy Church when to me it doesnt seem like rocket science. So why are people responding so enthusiastically.
My reflection is that
- it's not about messing with Sunday morning worship but doing something at another time and possibly venue
- in that sense it is permission-giving
- it builds on the 'alt worship' experiences of the last 10+ years. ie. a more multi-sensory, participatory form of worship is less foreign to more people
- its is multi-age, not simply for children. i think that has a genuine, positive appeal both for leaders and participants, for whom running a childrens program has been 'tried' and hasnt led to parental involvement
- it is missional. it's not just about us. many congregations genuinely want to engage people beyond the church and this is offered as a way that has worked. it's not simply about 'family worship' at 9 am.
- it grew out of a local church. people are more willing, for a variety of reasons, to try something that has worked for another congregation than something that is perceived to be written by a curriculum writer. this includes the assumption that the approach has been tried, tested, adapted, etc
- it is a package and a brand. it's not simply a book of 50 great ideas for all-age activities. we get what brands are, and "Messy Church", like "Alpha", has an expanding package of materials, an identity, and networks of churches and leaders who are involved. none of this is necessarily bad, although of course the temptation is always to copy rather than contextualise. (the UK seems enough like us that it's easy to assume that things will easily translate...)
- for those who believe that they dont have the time or talents to develop their own stuff, this gives them a starting point to move off from
- the training consisted of a lay woman teaching mainly lay women leaders. children and family ministry is most often led by lay women and Messy Church is an excellent example of those who 'do' directly teaching and encouraging those who want to 'do'.
I have a number of questions about "Messy Church", but I'm happy to sit with them while we experiment with our own version that isn't Messy Church, and learn from them while we contextualise ourselves.