PLENTY of cake is a significant part of ensuring that Messy Church works, a two-year survey of ways to make it function well suggests.
The report, A Voyage of Discovery, published last month, has produced a list of “clear actions” that churches should consider if they want Messy Churches to be “churches that make disciples and grow deeper in discipleship”. It concludes with the tongue-in-cheek injunction: “Oh. And cake. Eat lots of cake.”
More serious suggestions include:
- “Decide to be a community of reflective practice. Make space for reflection in every aspect of Messy Church. This isn’t about adding more activity, but about a shift in attitude that increasingly values the space for listening and reflection, and affirms it when it happens.”
- “Decide to notice God at work. Get into the habit of spotting what God’s doing and speak with each other about what you notice. Doing this brings about a change of culture that underpins the new practice.”
- “Decide to be church all month. Make space to be Messy Church in different, perhaps smaller ways in those weeks between the main gatherings.”
- “Decide to value quality as well as quantity. . . Big numbers are important, but value also the significance of the small or single.”
- “Decide to give up something — even something you enjoy — to prioritise Messy Church and make it a deeper, richer experience.”
- “Decide to journey together. . . This might be adults being together with children, or teams being alongside each other. Decide to be deliberately intergenerational, and to be hospitable to others who are different.”
- “Decide to enjoy it. Notice what is life-giving, what makes people smile, what lightens their eyes, and follow that light.”
- “More than anything, decide to be disciples and to make disciples.”
Messy Church was set up 17 years ago by the Bible Reading Fellowship to offer families and children food, activities, and worship. About 2800 groups are registered in England.
The study was conducted by the Church of England’s Evangelism and Discipleship Team among 24 groups in the Bristol, Durham, and Hereford dioceses. It covered a cross-section of urban and rural communities of varying socio-economic groups. It reports: “Insights generated from the experience of local leaders are particular to each context. However, there are plenty of gems uncovered so far which we want to celebrate and share.”
It lists a series approaches to deepening discipleship. They include: exploring questions about faith with all ages together; developing a strong thread of social action; adding an extra gathering into the monthly programme; mentoring team members to improve their leadership skills; and encouraging under-18s to take part in the team leadership.
The report concludes: “Our hope is that these findings can be shared widely and freely, that the initiatives they inspire will also be shared with that same extravagance, and that this virtuous cycle of generosity will enrich all churches, not just Messy ones.
“As the effects of the pandemic ebb away, it’s a chance to explore new ways of being church. Our hope is that this research will be part of bringing life in all its fullness to Jesus’ Church in her old and new forms.”
Read the report here