Cerys Hughes in Lichfield Diocese and her team have held their first Family Cafe, and Cerys has kindly written about it. If you’re thinking about a follow-on from Messy Church, it could be a great inspiration. I think her account gives lots of food for thought: the faithfulness to the DNA of Messy Church but doing something very different, the value of simply making space for Christians and non-Christians to hang out together, the value of using a different area in church from the one usually used, the power of making children a huge part of it but not exclusively focusing on them, using multimedia but simple singing too, and Cerys’ very honest reflections about how practical it is to do this more often, given the demands on the team. She writes:
Friday Family Cafe was amazing. This came out of our ‘It’s a Messy Mystery’ session, so all our Messy Church families were invited and we also invited everyone else in our church community. Our hope was that we could get all ages there together and that by having members of the ‘established’ church alongside our Messy Church families it would add depth to the conversations. It’s a very personal thing but I’m not a fan of structured, scripted discipleship courses and I think that there’s much value in having the opportunity just to spend time with Christians, talking together and hearing stories, thoughts, and so on. I was confident that no one would start beating their breast and that the level would be appropriate!
We aimed to keep the Creativity, Celebration and Hospitality values of Messy Church because it works and of course all age too. We held it in the chancel of our church so that it had a different feel to Messy Church and laid out tables and chairs cafe style. (I’ll post pictures on Facebook in a bit!)
We had two young ladies (aged 16 and 22) who volunteered to be hosts for the evening and it was great that they were keen to get involved with this.
Families arrived at 6.30pm. They were welcomed by the hosts and shown to a table. Tea, coffee, juice and lots of cake were served to them at the table. On the tables were pictures of Jesus at different points in his life and everyone was encourage to colour these in and talk about the pictures, like who they thought it was, what he was doing, what they knew about Jesus and so on.
At 6.50pm I encouraged tables to share with everyone what they knew about the pictures and we talked about what stories they relate to. The pictures go through Jesus’ life so we ended with the pictures of the crucifixion and then watched the ‘Remember Me’ video clip (makes me cry every time!) From that I picked two lines from the song to focus on, the first was ‘I will give my life for you’ so we talked about that and what a huge sacrifice it is and we sang ‘King of Kings, Majesty’.
Line 2 was, ‘Always choose to remember the truth; that God loves all of you’ and we talked about that and how God loves everyone, that we don’t have to be someone special.
I then talked about the Gospel story, ‘Let the children come to me, do not try to stop them…’ – how Jesus welcomed the children that no one else thought were worth him talking to and that shows how much he valued everyone, even the children. I then read a reflection based on this. It’s from kids@essence and basically puts you in the shoes of a child there at the time. There are pauses in the story that ask questions so everyone was encouraged to write their thoughts and feelings or freely doodle on the paper table cloth during this time. I was amazed at how still the church was during this point; everyone seemed so focused, even the very small children!
Prayers were then based on that reflection, asking, ‘What do you want to say to Jesus?’ There were cards on the table for people to write on or they were offered the opportunity to pray out loud or silently during this time. Music was played quietly to make everyone feel comfortable.
More tea, coffee and cake was served and people were encouraged to discuss their thoughts and feelings about what we’d done and there were also beaded pipe cleaner hearts to make on the tables.
We sang Happy Birthday and ended with Messy Church Grace to give a finishing point but people stayed behind to chat and help tidy up too.
As people left, they were all given a handmade gift envelope, In it was a sachet of hot chocolate and a little card that says: ‘Promise yourself that this week you will take ten minutes to yourself, make yourself a drink and think about what is important to you.’ A Bible quote from a contemporary version (CEV) of Matthew 11:28-30: ‘If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens…’ was printed underneath and on the back were details of our regular services and events and contact details for the church.
It was fab!
Our Messy Church attracts 40-50 people. Eighteen came to Cafe – a mix of Messy Church and regular church families, with and without children. We did have apologies from a few more that were on holiday too. We’ve had amazing feedback and everyone can’t wait for the next one – I’m not sure when that will be! We recognise that any kind of discipleship/going deeper initiative needs to be regular but we have a very small Messy Church team and it’s the same team that are leading this too as well as most other things. We are in an interregnum but I really felt that the Messy Church families had asked for this, so we had to do it and clearly God has blessed it!
There was no real cost to it – the church provided drinks and we asked for donations of cakes from all congregations and actually had too much (no, I didn’t think too much cake was a problem either!) so it’s just time and energy.