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Moving forward, messily

02 August 2013

Dana Delap considers new resources for work with children


Creative Ways to Tell a Bible Story
Martyn Payne
Barnabas for Children £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT635)

Let's Get Together! Flexible fun-filled activity ideas for the whole church family
Sue Langwade
Barnabas for Children £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT635)

The Adventure Cruise: Midweek and holiday club programme
John Hardwick
Barnabas for Children £11.99
Church Times Bookshop £10.80 (Use code CT635)

Messy Church 3: Fifteen sessions for exploring the Christian life with families
Lucy Moore
BRF £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT635)

Making Disciples in Messy Church: Growing faith in an all-age community
Paul Moore
BRF £6.99
Church Times Bookshop £6.30 (Use code CT635)

THE desire of the authors to encourage children, their families and carers, and those who attend all-age worship towards greater discipleship shines through these new books from the Bible Reading Fellowship and its offshoot Barnabas for Children. Whether your church is able to provide services and clubs suitable for children weekly, monthly, or only occasionally, there is something in this collection to inspire and help us all to grow in faith.

Martyn Payne is a storyteller, and brings his considerable experience to the question how to bring a Bible story to life. The first section of Creative Ways to Tell a Bible Story suggests ways to open up our innate inventiveness, using techniques from school and stage. The middle of the book gives numerous ways to tell the story visually, orally, and kinaesthetically. The final third suggests ways to explore further and reflect on the Bible. The book is fun, and Payne is enthusiastic in his promotion of interactive biblical storytelling. I recommend it as a resource for those who lead all-age worship, as well as for teachers and leaders of junior church.

Sue Langwade's Let's Get Together! includes dramas and puppetry, crafts, games, resources for quiet spaces and reflective prayer, and easy-to-do take-home ideas in an all-age setting. Using the metaphor of a tree that grows and reaches maturity, Langwade explores what it means to belong to the Christian family and community. Everyone participating is encouraged to join in, and, by having fun together over five sessions, members of the church family grow in their relationships. If the whole church could be persuaded to engage in these activities, the resource would particularly suit a parish weekend.

The Adventure Cruise offers resources for a nautically themed holiday club or midweek programme. Unlike the other books reviewed here, it does not cater for all ages, but is entirely for children. Besides giving useful advice for those running a club for the first time, John Hardwick offers a wide range of resources, including dramas, crafts, games, and teaching. There is a good structure, but choices need to be made, demanding a significant degree of engagement with the material. The BRF has a track record of producing good holiday-club resources. The Adventure Cruise is no exception.

More than 1000 messy churches are affiliated to the Messy Church network, and, over the past ten years, thousands of children and families have been introduced to God and to church in this way. The greatest strength of messy church has been the lightness of touch with which Lucy Moore and the BRF have steered Messy Church, providing a plethora of good resources without making demands about how these are used. They have responded rapidly and imaginatively to critics, and have offered helpful resources to address issues.

In Messy Church 3, Moore offers 15 new sessions for the church year, but suggests that this may be the last book in the series. Future resources will be available on the excellent website, and through a subscription magazine.

When a Christian community begins to form, requests for baptism and possibly holy communion often follow. Requests for support in growing disciples in an all-age community has resulted in Making Disciples in Messy Church by Paul Moore. He responds to the claim that messy churches are not real church communities with examples of how families have come to faith through messy church, although some would unfairly question his definition of church.

A significant number of those attending messy church have little or no church background. Moore offers a helpful beginners' guide to faith development, as participants move through stages of openness to, and spiritual awareness of, God. He makes a strong biblical case for the part played by the all-age community of the church in discipleship and formation, while recognising the substantial commitment of time and resources that effective discipleship demands. Making Disciples in Messy Church would be an excellent resource for PCC members who are engaging with issues of mission and evangelism in general, as well as required reading for those who lead a messy church.

A couple of decades ago, it was suggested that new disciples would benefit from receiving a "knapsack" of Christian texts that would support their spiritual growth, the Lord's Prayer among them. Messy Church 3 includes a session based on the Lord's Prayer, and a monthly "memory verse" for families to think about and pray through, which focus on that, and also on the Grace. This is discipleship in action through messy church, and a challenge to those who doubt the ability of messy church to help people to grow in faith.

The Revd Dana Delap is Assistant  Curate of St James and St Basil, Fenham, in the diocese of Newcastle.

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