Our Messy Church – World Services/Self-Denial Experience:
Quite a few of you have asked me how our corps (church) went about doing “Messy Church” after we posted photos and a video of our event. Let me just first say that Messy Church was something new to us. We hadn’t done it before in our corps and so it was quite a departure and risk to do. Perhaps sometimes we worry too much about upsetting the “Norm” or the flow of the traditional service.
Our Messy Church event focused on World Services.
You know the old adage “you won’t understand until you walk a mile in my shoes”? Well, with messy church, we were trying to help our corps people walk a mile in the shoes of other Christians in specific parts of the world in the hopes that it will spur on more of a concern and care for World Services – and the necessity of it.
We set up in our gym with 8 tables which represented these countries (printed flags were also taped to the tables):
The Curriculum is Messy Church “Christian Aid” which is from the UK and another denomination – this can be easily modified to fit our World Services through The Salvation Army and our specific territory and its Partners In Mission. So as you click the link above, please note that we did modify it a bit to help us focus our corps members on World Services as we changed some of the verbiage within the guide. We also used the stories linked here: Case Studies to help our corps members understand the specific struggles of children and families in these regions of the world. The case studies will help to put the objective of each table into proper perspective for the participant.
Because there are 8 tables/countries to visit, we kept this portion moving rather rapidly by only giving the groups 5 minutes at each table. Each table’s task varied, from grinding coffee, smelling it and brewing it (Nicaragua); to building a shelter and roof then checking to see if it was waterproof (Sierra Leon). All of these activities fully engaged the groups and helped them visualize the struggles of each country they were in.
Here’s how we organized our time:
The Welcome: (5 minutes)
I wanted to help some of our traditional attendees feel less uncomfortable by starting out in the chapel with our Welcome & Announcements which was followed by our offering (We sang “He’s Got the whole world in his hands”).
The Instruction Time: (5 minutes)
After our offering we explained our World Services emphasis and what Messy Church was all about. I wanted to assure some corps members that these activities were not specifically for children, but for the whole corps and all ages. I also wanted to emphasize that we all needed to stop “adulting” for a bit and just absorb our discovery. This will help some to feel more comfortable as you step out of traditional worship and what some have come to expect from a Sunday morning service.
After assuring and instructing we prayed for our service and I invited everyone to grab a “Passport” at the back of the sanctuary as they made their way out to the gym. Note: the passport sample is on page 6 of this link: Session Guide. If you wanted to incorporate another method or passport book that’s entirely up to you. We simply had stickers at each table, so after completing that country’s activity, the participant placed a sticker or “stamp” in their passport for that country.
The World Traveling Experience: (40 minutes)
Once in the gym, the participants were asked to find a country as a starting point. We encouraged the groups to go in different directions and to take 6-8 people with them. Each location had elements for their activity which coincided with the Case Studies (again these studies can be modified and adjusted). Also, since each corps/ministry is unique, you should adjust the activities for each table that arr suggested in the Guide to match your demographic and audience.
From there, have a time keeper and assure that each group has both adults and kids involved in the “travels”. Keep them traveling from country to country at or near your designated timeline!
The Celebration: (10 minutes)
Following the last country’s destination and completion of activity, depart back for “Home”. In our case we all traveled back to our sanctuary to debrief. What happens in the celebration is a reinforcement of what everyone just experienced through hands-on activities and the case study stories.
In the Guide, towards page 5 is a suggested plot for the celebration/worship component.
Our corps discussed the experience in sort of an open forum, with feedback, then we read Micah 6:8 and discussed justice, love and mercy. Following this scripture reinforcement, we watched The Salvation Army Central Territory’s World Services/Self-Denial video: ITW Self-denial Transforms
We presented a brief synopsis of Self-denial, talked about the change boxes/piggy banks and pledged to come back in a month (with weekly focus videos and announcements as reminders) and have a Self-denial offering celebration together (this would entail, our corps members bringing back their change boxes or piggy banks to give collectively in a World Services offering).
Following this we sang “Open the Eyes of my heart”
and concluded with a benediction.
A Fellowship Meal Followed: (30 minutes – 1 hour)
The last component is often what we do best isn’t it?
But it does help corps members and possible new comers to further discuss and fellowship together. We had a simple meal, but in the study Guide it even suggests having an international meal prepared for the participants.
My Thoughts on Messy Church:
This type of hand-on, full sensory worship has potential for new comers and regulars a like. This wouldn’t be something that we would do every Sunday (honestly, it took a lot more effort than your traditional service). BUT, I believe Messy Church will help bring in new corps members who are unchurched or do not understand what church is about in the first place. This is really a non-threatening type of ministry approach which, I believe, eases families and individuals into a new church setting.
There are all sorts of ways to do a Messy Church themed event in your corps, I have linked some videos below for you to check out for yourself. The sky really is the limit in how you and your team organizes one. Also, these type of events can of course be done on any day of the week, originally the Anglican church conducted theirs on Wednesday evenings.
Messy Church can help break our monotony and also open up worship to some of those “Creatives” out there and those who are already in your congregation. Don’t be intimidated by Messy Church either, it can be a real tool to use for evangelism and even discipleship. Give it a go, perhaps it’s not for every demographic or congregation…but you won’t know unless you first try it for yourself.
Something more to ponder today!
As promised, here are some videos on Messy Church for further review:
Messy Church Introduction
What does Messy Church look like?
News Story on Messy Church
Also check out this link for more Messy Church ideas: Messy Church UK