I hope by now you’ve seen the easy-to-use Discipleship Pilot we’ve created for Messy Churches. It’s a simple and straightforward tool to get your team talking about what you might do to make and grow disciples in your Messy Church. In this short blog, I’ll focus on the first suggestion in it: that of making disciples by encouraging families to do faith in their homes. In following blogs, we’ll look at the other suggestions. The hope is to whet every Messy Church leader’s appetite to do more than just churn out a Messy Church session month by month (not that any of us would, but…). Instead, we all come to see Messy Church as one of the means by which Jesus calls people of all ages to follow him more and more closely.
Why have we suggested ‘faith at home’ as a fruitful way forward for Messy Churches? Wouldn’t it be more satisfying and measurable, easier to see our success, if we put on a course or a programme? How can we measure what’s going on in the privacy of people’s homes? How do we know they’re Doing It Right?
It’s true: this approach is not one to take if you want to stay in control. Unless families are kind enough to tell you, you may never find out how they express their faith within their own four walls. You won’t have control over what they do, talk about, question or wonder about. For some leaders, that’s a problem. For others, it’s an example of acknowledging that discipleship is God’s work, with us just providing examples, models, ideas, encouragement, challenges and suggestions for people to find their own way to follow him.
But imagine if your Messy Church was gently creating an environment where the expectation is that everyone is enjoying prayers at bedtime, saying grace before meals, chatting about God as they walk to school or round the supermarket, noticing God at work in the office; where the Messy Church bits and bobs that are made join a ‘focus shelf’ to remind everyone of the stories from the Bible; where every family is equipped with a suitable Bible for their stage of life and knows how to use it; where social action is part of family life, not something that waits until gathered church happens; where every parent feels confident to open up conversations about God and to respond helpfully when their child asks hard questions. Wouldn’t that groundswell of living discipleship naturally overflow into schools, the local community, the church and the wider world?
Doesn’t it make sense to champion a means of discipleship that gives control to the families themselves; that doesn’t involve the busy team in yet another gathered church meeting with all the planning that needs; that celebrates the all-age nature of Messy faith development and that is more about growing as a community than simply as an individual? In your inherited church sometime, try asking who came to faith before the age of 20, 15, 10, 5… You might be surprised.
You’ll find two great resources within BRF: Faith in Homes is one, a website with a steady trickle of prayer ideas to use at home, ways to talk about God and articles to inspire you. On your Facebook page, you could give your families the link to a fun prayer idea or get a discussion going about one of the issues raised in an article from this website. Another is Parenting for Faith, with its free video-based learning about bringing up children in a Christian home. (Have you thought about the difference between God-smart and God-connected people?) Imagine simply showing your families where to find this library of short films, most of them created by parents, giving them ideas and sharing problems sympathetically? And there are many other organisations like Care for the Family with great resources as well.
Helping Messy families explore faith at home makes complete sense for a rock-solid foundation of intergenerational discipleship and is a brilliant investment in life in all its fullness, today and well into the future.