contributed by Melinda Shunk, Children’s Ministry Coordinator
It is the dog days of summer! Vacation Bible School is done. It is not quite time for promotion Sunday. Families seem to be hit and miss on Sunday due to traveling for summer vacation. Travel teams are finishing up those last summer games. Kids are at Tanako for a week of camp! What does a Children’s Minister do to reach out to those that may never come to church or know that one even exists in their neighborhood?
Well, I’ll tell you what an eight-year veteran of Children’s Ministry like Jessica Butler of Sardis United Methodist Church would do: she gets messy!
Two years ago, Jessica came across the book Messy Church by Lucy Moore and Jane Ledbetter. Messy Church is a combination of a lot of things you may already have and do at your church, but it is combined to become a multigenerational outreach blend of fun, shared experience, worship and food into one unique time of day. See, I told you it was everything you already do in ministry, just blended together!
Jessica made a fun social media graphic called Mess-tival. She blasted it around town as well as went old school and put some posters in community establishments. She made sure to have members she knew would be at the event share the Mess-tival invite publicly for all who may want to join in the fun.
Then with the help of Karen Guinn, they dug out tables and old supplies from every event they had over the last year. They set up a slime station, a tinkering station, water play station, and a few more tables all staffed with youth helpers. Overall the supplies cost little to nothing, but she did purchase plastic table cloths when she set the tables up outside to help with easy clean-up at the end.
On a hot July evening, Jessica welcomed in a few faces she knew and a lot of new faces from the community. Parents didn’t think of dropping off their kids as they did for VBS or Sunday school. Parents and grandparents knew it was a time for all of them to have Messy Church.
As families arrived, they were offered snacks and drinks at tables together. Once she gave them 20-30 minutes to all arrive and have a snack, she shared a short lesson. She shared that life can be messy. Sometimes messy means bad and sometimes messy can be good. No matter what Jesus loves messy people!
In fact, Jesus loves to take messy people and make something beautiful from the mess. She then shared some scripture and closed in prayer. From there, she walked them to the tables set up outside for the families to go make a mess. Parents and grandparents shared experiences with the children as they moved around to each table set up for their mess.
The casual, light-hearted environment gave way to conversation. Jessica was able to move around to the different groups to have caring conversations. One family said they never go to church but they could get into this kind of church! Some grandparents shared that they had their grandchildren for the week and thought this was something they could all do together when they saw the Mess-tival invite. Church members who were used to dropping off their kids for events asked when the next Mess-tival would be held.
As of now, this was Jessica’s second Mess-tival. She had thought of it as a supplemental outreach for those slower times in the church schedule. However, she says due to its success, she would love to start doing more for her community. Messy Church helps all ages hear God’s words of love and literally feel God’s love through each other as they have a messy experience together.