A good article by Harriet Sergeant was published in The Spectator in the aftermath of the Kids Company demise with five questions to ask a charity. I shall ask them of Messy Church at BRF and shall try not to embezzle, hornswoggle or otherwise mislead as I answer.
Who uses the charity and in what numbers?
When you list the denominations who use Messy Church, it starts to sound like a version of ‘A Modern Major General’:
There’s Lutherans and Anglicans, and URC and MethodistsThere’s Brethren, Evangelicals, Uniting Church and CatholicsThere’s Baptist, Elim, Pentecostal, up and down the candleAnd lots of other types of church who do not have a handle…
… as well as the very different socio-economic, ethnic and faith groupings into which our families fall. As for numbers, Jane sent through an email entitled ‘Yikes!’ today, saying that it’s only 5 January and we’ve had 13 registrations through already this year. In December around 30 Messy Churches registered. There are now (today) 3134 on our Directory, so lose some which have stopped functioning and haven’t got round to telling us, and add some more for those who have started without letting us know; reckon on between 15 and 250 people belonging to each one and do the maths. Is that enough numbers? (Does God count anyway?)
Question the people using the charity
We’re going to send out a couple of surveys this year sometime for you to fill in if you’d care to – one for teams and one for Messy families. Should be fun to hear what you think, and I’m sure it’ll provide lots of food for thought – except that Christians tend to expect everything for free, and I’m sure will say so, which is a bit tough when you’re trying to run a ministry like this that can never pay for itself. That’s why we need your church’s help to keep the ministry on the road. It’ll be most excellent to read your responses.
How effective is the charity over the long term? Is it really changing lives or merely satisfying an immediate need?
Oh, that short-term longing for glitter, so quickly satisfied. Oh, the immediacy of the splooshing of cornflour gloop. Oh, the joy of having a full tummy for the first time that weekend: let’s not look down on short-term experiences. They are part of a childlike gift for living in the present. But is Messy Church changing lives? God is changing lives through Messy Church through his transforming grace and people are finding a new way of life in him. You are changing lives through your sacrificial leadership and friendship towards the families who come. Messy Church is a great tool to let that shine through. Keep th stories coming.
Is the charity is actually required? Is another one doing the same job better?
Without BRF, you probably wouldn’t have heard of Messy Church in the first place, nor have access to the resources, so many of which are free or remarkably cost-effective. There would be nobody thinking through the wider implications like Martyn does; nobody on a local level to offer you support like the network of Regional Coordinators Jane heads up; nobody painting her toenails in hot tubs on tropical islands like I do. (Just to see if you’re still with me.) No friendly voice on the end of a phone! No Pinterest page! No Facebook page! No Twitter! No conference! No magazine! No advocacy or strategy! Take BRF away and I reckon Messy Church would carry on for a while but soon get very very tired… Rest assured, when we’re not needed, we’ll stop.
Does the charity put the people it helps first – rather than concentrating its efforts on what is convenient for staff or seductive to donors?
Hmmm… I would hope we try to strike a happy balance of looking after the Messy Church team so that we can support you, just as you care for your team so that the team can care for the families coming to Messy Church. And it’s a long time since any of us did something to that was designed to be seductive to a donor. The problem with working in this fantastic team is that they all love the work so much that it’s hard to make them stop. It’s exciting to put ourselves into God’s hands and work with him on this Messy adventure… and there’s still so much to do, so many opportunities to make God known through all this creativity, hospitality and general Messiness!