Messy Church has proved to be very popular with children and families in parishes. The Rev’d Gillian Moses, Chaplain at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School has introduced it to her school community with very positive results.
What was the challenge or need being addressed?
The need is to engage small children (and their largely unchurched parents) in a religious experience at their level. We hold family services for all year levels from Kindy to Year 12. While a more structured and traditional service is appropriate for the Senior School, I think that in the Junior School our liturgies need to be much more user-friendly, and work with the students though activities and stories they are already familiar with.
What was the response to the need?
I came to this task with no experience of school chaplaincy or of Messy Church! I had heard very good things about Messy Church, and my daughter, who had been involved in Messy Church in her parish agreed to come along and help, so we thought we would give it a go.
What I like about Messy Church is the experiential element – the children (and their parents – a very important element) actually make things that contribute to the worship. Even when they can’t write or speak in public they are well and truly part of it. And because it is very hands on, the children are more likely to remember the stories because of the attachment to craft activities.
What was the impact?
The response was incredibly positive. We have run Messy Church a number of times now and it is the way we present liturgy in the Junior School at Easter and Christmas, as well as the K-2 Family Service. The parents and teachers are just as engaged as the students. I like seeing the teachers walk around with looks of wonder and joy on their faces as they watch their charges making houses, angels and pet rock families! And parents all leave smiling, which is a rare thing in any church service!
After our first Messy Church, one of the older sisters who had come along said “can we have this for our services too?” The children look forward to coming to Messy Church because they know it will be fun. Anything that gives our students a positive experience of the God story and helps them look forward to hearing more is a win in my book. That gives us something to build on going forward.
One of our instrumental music teachers told me she was walking a student back past the chapel the other day as we were getting ready for Messy Church and the student exclaimed, “Yay, we are having Messy Church!” How often do we get that kind of response to church?
What were the greatest challenges?
Initially the greatest challenge for me was organising resources and craft supplies, and coming up with appropriate craft projects that were simple, fun and related to the theme. As Messy Church has become an established part of the Junior School worship programme, teachers are taking ownership of Messy Church as well, and come up with ideas and supplies to make the ideas happen. This has been a great help.