Messy Church is Fun for the Whole Family

By Rick Wolcott*

Welcome to Messy Church, the fast-growing ministry that engages people and builds relationships with those who are not involved in a church.  It offers Christ-centered activities for all ages built around hospitality, creativity, and celebration.

“This is one of those programs that can help any church find new ways to reach beyond the walls of its building,” said U.S. Army Chaplain Jim Lewis.

Founded in The United Kingdom, Messy Church has spread to at least 3,500 churches across 20 different denominations in 30 countries.  In fact, more than 500,000 people around the globe take part in the once-a-month ministry.

“We have been doing Messy Church since October,” said Sherry Cullers of Heartland Crossroads Ministry, a cooperative ministry of four small town/rural churches in the Western Pennsylvania Conference.  “We’re seeing that it is bringing some of the lost and the forgotten into the church in a non-threatening environment.”

Cullers joined 75 other people at Faith United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) in North Canton on February 21 for the Messy Church Workshop, jointly sponsored by the East Ohio Conference Spiritual Formation Committee and East Ohio Conference Christians Engaged in Faith Formation.

“There are different activity stations all built around themes.  You introduce the theme and let them know a little bit of the story behind that theme, and they get to do some hands on activities and then come together for a celebratory meal,” said the Rev. Janet Zimmerman, director of Christian Education at Church of the Lakes UMC (Tuscarawas District) in Canton.

“The adults enjoy the crafts almost more than the kids do,” Cullers said.  “It’s encouraging to hear people sharing their stories.”

“I think it’s a great idea to interact with people who know the story and who don’t know the story because we have a great story to share about God’s great love for all people,” said the Rev. Kris Patt of Church of the Cross UMC (Canal District) in Wooster.

“Everybody needs a base and a good foundation for their faith,” said Emma Robinson.  “I’m 87 years old and I came to this workshop because you should never stop learning, you should never stop learning.”

Messy Church is designed to give local churches another way to connect with people in their communities.

“It’s not a program or social club, but a different type of church service with a strong focus on building relationships with families outside of the church.  It’s church that incorporates activities, art, reflection, prayer, storytelling, and fellowship,” said Kathy Schmucker, Spiritual Formation director at Faith UMC.

“Messy Church is a practice of hospitality and welcome that meets people where they are.”

“It’s a very fun, non-threatening way to get people involved, to build relationships, and to get people to hopefully want to learn more about Jesus Christ and to have a relationship with Jesus,” Zimmerman said.

You can learn more about Messy Church by viewing Messy Church .

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.