Discipleship – can you help us?

Published 27th November 2010 by lucy moore

In March 2011 we’re holding a consultation on Messy Discipleship and we need your help.
We’d like to hear what strategies you have put in place to try to grow discipleship among your messy families and what the results have been – stories of failure are even more helpful than success stories.
And we need the ‘voice’ of Messy families to be heard: what questions are they asking, if any? What do they get out of Messy Church? What might encourage them to take a step forward in their faith journey? What would put them off? What, if anything, do they think Messy Church could do to help them?
We wondered about producing a questionnaire for anyone interested to use, but it soon became apparent that no two Messy Churches work in quite the same way, and whereas one might thoroughly enjoy filling in questionnaires, another might find it intrusive and off-putting.
So, if you would be interested in giving your messy families a voice in our consultation, please would you look through the suggestions below and prayerfully choose the approach which you feel is right for your congregation, or indeed devise one of your own.
The interview approach will probably give the most profound and useful answers but is also very time-consuming. Even if you could manage just two or three interviews, that would be brilliant.
I suspect what we come up with together will be a mixture of your own observations and insights, especially in churches where it seems inappropriate to question people, as well as direct statements from messy families. It’s very likely that you will find the process fascinating too.
We need responses by the end of January 2011 for the purposes of the consultation. If any come in beyond that point they will still be valuable in the long term. It doesn’t matter how you send us your results – it may be easiest to email on lucy.moore@brf.org.uk and it doesn’t matter whether you send us page-loads of profound insights or a short list of thoughts: what matters is trying to get a true and honest overview of what is going on with messy families. It would help enormously if you could let us know

how you gathered the data
what sort of church and area you are

A huge THANK YOU in advance for taking the trouble to do this.

Your own ‘beyond Messy Church’ strategies
Please answer any of these that you can, even if you don’t manage to collect data from messy families.
1. What have you tried to do to encourage discipleship beyond the actual Messy Church session? How successful has it been?
2. What have you tried within the Messy Church session to deepen discipleship? How successful has it been?
3. What do you feel is the right way forward for your Messy Church in terms of growing disciples?

Seven suggestions for collecting information
You will find below two sets of questions for interview; one questionnaire; a reflective story idea, ideas for grafitti wall questions, a table top ‘quiz’ format and a drawing suggestion.
1. Question Suggestions for interviews with adults
These are based on the questions asked in personal interviews with parents at a Messy Church taking part in theological reflection on the subject of discipleship.
1. With how many children do you attend Messy Church?
2. How long have you been coming to Messy Church?
3. What parts of Messy Church do you enjoy?
4. Can you give me an example of a special moment that you have shared with your children at Messy Church?
5. What, if anything, do you or your children bring home from Messy Church in terms of ideas, stories, behaviour, challenges?
6. How does Messy Church differ from other activities to which you take your children?
7. How would you describe your sense of belonging to Messy Church? (Prompt: is it something you attend when you can or is there a more community feel to it?)
8. How often would you like to come to Messy Church? More often than once a month if it happened more often? (Prompt: how much sense of commitment is there?)
9. What do you like about the story time? Can you remember any stories in particular?
10. Since coming to Messy Church, has it changed the way you think about church/God?
11. Do you have any previous church connections/experience?
12. Might you be interested in joining a small group of Messy Church parents that meets during the week?
13. Is there anything you would like to change about Messy Church?
14. Is there anything you’d like to say to those running Messy Church?

2. Question Suggestions #2
This is a different set of questions suggested by Anne Anderson for interviews:

Looking at your entire experience at Messy Church, remember a time when you felt excited and involved in the church. What made it exciting? Who else was involved? Can you describe how you felt about it?
What do you value most about being a member of Messy Church?
What do you value most about Messy Church?
What is the most important thing Messy Church has contributed to your life?
What is the core ingredient about Messy Church without which it would not be Messy Church?
Make three wishes for the future of Messy Church.

3. Questionnaire

A questionnaire suggested by the Ven Bob Jackson, who is very experienced in church growth:
1. How long have you been coming to Messy Church?
Under a year
One to two years
Two to three years
Over three years (tick box)

2. What about other forms of church?
Messy Church is the only church I usually go to
I also attend Sunday church at least monthly
I was not a churchgoer when I started coming to Messy Church
I was already a churchgoer when I started attending Messy Church

3. What attracts you to Messy Church? (tick as many boxes as you like):
Friendship and community
Getting in touch with God
Hands-on activities
Helping my spiritual journey
Something to do as a family together
A chance to find answers to life’s questions
Food and fun
It introduces Christianity to my children
The timing is especially suitable for me
Other (please specify)
Tell us more if you would like to:

4. Can you suggest how Messy Church could improve or develop in any of the above aspects?

5. If part of what attracts you is about getting in touch with God, or going on a spiritual journey, or exploring questions about life, or introducing children to the Christian faith, we would like to hear how Messy Church can help you more. Can you tell us what your main issues or questions are at the moment?
Many thanks for taking part. Your answers will help shape the development of Messy Church for the future.
4. Reflective Story
Devise a reflective story showing the different elements (for example, welcome, craft, celebration, food) and record the answers to questions, like:
1. I wonder which part of Messy Church you like best?
2. I wonder which part you think is most important?
3. I wonder if there are any parts we could leave out and still have a good Messy Church?
4. I wonder if we could add anything to make it better?
5. I wonder where you come closest to other people and they come closest to you?
6. I wonder where you come closest to God and he comes closest to you?
5. Graffiti Wall
Have a scribble wall with a few headings for people to fill in:
Things I like
Things I want to change
Good ideas for the future
Questions about God
Tick here if you’d like to chat further about your questions in a small group (just to get an idea of how many would be interested)

6. Table quizzes
Leave sheets on the meal table to be filled in with similar headings to idea 4.
7. Drawing
Invite adults and children to draw on the theme of ‘Why I come to Messy Church’, or ‘My family and God’.

PLUS one more way suggested by Bob Jackson for inviting children to respond (PDF)

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