This weekend, we were at the Messy Church International Conference 2019! I have been on the planning team for this event over the past year and a half so it was amazing to see it come together into the wonderful, affirming, Messy weekend that it was. For those of you who missed it, here’s a quick overview of what you missed!
Messy Churches are flourishing
It can be easy to see your own Messy Church getting low on numbers and assume that it must be the same everywhere else, but a few conversations with other passionate Messy Church leaders will soon put a stop to that notion! This conference was a wonderful opportunity to hear the success stories – there are Messy Churches (and quite a lot of them!) that are growing and growing fast.
This is Steve. I made friends with Steve at the conference – he is made from a boiler suit, a balloon and many, many toilet rolls. Because we all need a creative way to store our excess toilet rolls. Me and Steve had a great time, and he even let me have some of his toilet rolls at the end of the weekend – he needed to lose a bit of weight anyway.
Messy Churches are creatively creating disciples
The main theme of the weekend was discipleship. On Saturday afternoon, we heard four examples of Messy Churches creatively finding ways to do discipleship in their contexts. We heard about Messy Summer Camps in Australia (complete with flies!); Caroline’s work with Messy Prisons in the UK; a bilingual Messy Church (L’Église Pêle Mêle) in Montreal that worships in both English and French; and All-Age Companion Groups in America.
Did you venture down to the lake at High Leigh? There were some very tiny ducklings out for a swim!!
Messy Church is working!
On Saturday morning we welcomed Claire Dalpra from the Church Army Research Unit to share her findings from the Playfully Serious research into Messy Church. You can read the full research here, but here are a few key findings: 61% of attendees were not church goers when they first came of Messy Church; 14% of Messy Churches reported attendees going for baptism (both children & adults); discipleship is a lifelong journey of following Jesus and Messy Church is playing a key role in keeping attendees on this journey; Messy Church appears to work in any social or geographical context; exploring the Bible is a natural part of what happens at Messy Church; Messy Churches have an average attendance of 43, compared to 35 in existing Sunday worship services; attendees value quality of gatherings over quantity. Claire left us with wonderful reflections for how we can be more intentional, but it is wonderful to know that Messy Church really does make disciples.
Messy Church leaders have SO many ideas
During the weekend, we had two sets of workshops. I was involved in Messy Prayer and #ShareTheMess (publicising Messy Church), and whilst the intention of both sessions was for us to facilitate discussions rather than teach as experts, I was not expecting the huge number of amazing ideas that came out of these groups. I left both sessions with SO many awesome ideas that I want to bring back to my own Messy Church (you’ll probably see a lot of the prayer ideas pop up in the blog). It is always wonderful to share our ideas with each other, including what has worked well and what hasn’t.
Camels travelling around the world
A popular part of the weekend was our Messy Swap Shop, when activity ideas from across the world were displayed for all of us to see/borrow. Some of the activities included making a camel and a donkey (hobby horse style). As the camels and donkeys travelled home, we heard great stories of camels and donkeys boarding the tube, the train and even the odd aeroplane! One even visited a Bishop on his way home.
Messy Church leaders are the friendliest
Coming to a conference where you don’t know that many people can be daunting, but this was one conference where you didn’t need to be afraid. I spoke to several people who were the only attendees from their country, who had really enjoyed it. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and had something special in common: their love for (and ability to talk about for many, many hours) Messy Church. It was so easy to sit down at a table with literally anyone and chat to them! I met some wonderful people and had such a lovely time getting to know people from around the world.
The catchiest of worship songs
If you haven’t come across Fischy Music before, you need to check him out now! Stephen joined us for the weekend to teach us and lead us in worship each day. All of the songs were wonderful, led us to God and were the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard. I’m so sure that I will still have “God behind, God beside, God ahead” stuck in my head for months! Here is an awesome video of the worship at the end of our final celebration.
God’s letter to the angel of Messy Church
On Sunday morning, we held a Messy Church session with a twist. Instead of the usual moving between activities, each group of people stayed at their table for the whole time. Using the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, each group was asked to prayerfully consider what God might be saying to the “Angel of Messy Church”. The groups then wrote their word onto one piece of a giant star, and decorated it using the materials supplied. During the celebration, we brought the whole star together, including all of the words we believe God was saying to Messy Church. These words were: Keep, Belong, & Or, Alive, Go Shine, Trust, I am not done yet, Excited & Persevere; God’s Dream and a Messy made up word (Gracythyffng – throwing the international element in there to make it a bit Welsh).
For those of you who attended – what did I miss? What was your favourite part of the weekend?
For those of you who didn’t attend – make sure you keep Messy Church International Conference 2022 firmly on your radar. You do not want to miss this!
Let’s pray for all those who attended, especially those who are travelling home. May they have been blessed by the weekend, and may God help them to use everything they learnt and all the enthusiasm they had during the Messy Church International Conference, as they return to their home Messy Churches.