Messy Wellbeing

Published 19th August 2021 by Messy Church

Catherine Johnson, Messy Church Support Team volunteer, led a Facebook Live on Messy Wellbeing – Taking care of ourselves, our Messy teams and our Messy families.
We’re going to spend some time looking at the subject of good mental health and how we can build back better for us and for our messy church teams going forwards.  The lovely BRF Messy team asked if I’d run this FB live session as it was something we offered back at the Messtival – which was only in May but feels like it was a lifetime ago – and people found it helpful then, so we thought we’d run these FB live sessions and there are going to be some Messy Masterclasses later in the year where we can go into more detail on wellbeing and resilience and how you can look after yourself, your Messy Church team and your messy families. 
I’m Catherine and I work as a curate in a church of England church in Greater Manchester. I run a Christians Against Poverty debt centre in my church and I’m a crisis volunteer for SHOUT which provides free, 24/7 mental health support via text – on 85258.  Before ordination, I worked for 18 years in the NHS and in a local authority, focusing on children’s mental health.  
And in case you’re wondering why on earth I’m doing a Messy Facebook Live session, that’s because I’ve had the great joy of being involved in Messy for the last 13 years – running Messy in my own church, being involved with BRF as a regional coordinator and now I’m part of two of the Messy support teams – the prayer team and the oh-so-grand sounding pool of wisdom team.  Not sure why I’m on that one, but there we go… 
Clearly, there isn’t enough time today to cover everything we could say or want to know about good mental health and building resilience, so we’re just going to have a run through of some good practice ideas for everyone for boosting your wellbeing, we’ll look at some Do-s and Don’t-s in relation to wellbeing and I’ll mention some resources that might be useful to you.  
Anyway, as Lucy might say – it’s time for me to stop wiffling on, I’ll pray for us and then we’ll get started.  
Heavenly Father, you know that we have messy lives, often filled with messy problems. As we spend this time together now, as a Messy Church community, I pray that you will come into our mess, come into our midst and work in us and through us for your glory.  Amen.   
OK, so the first thing I want us to focus on today is self-care.  For some people, that might sound a bit too touchy-feely and like I’m going to suggest that if only you have a bath and a scented candle then everything will be right with the world.  In case you’re thinking that – I want to reassure you that it is absolutely not my focus.  Instead, I want to start with God who offers us life in all its fulness, God who tells us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us and who says come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  
God does not ask us to live life at 100 miles an hour, nor does he ask us to take on the world’s problems – that’s his job.   God asks us to turn to him and trust him, he tells us not to do things in our own strength – it’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.  Perhaps if you want to put in the comments any Bible verses you can think of that encourage us to rest, go easy on ourselves and trust in God that could be a real encouragement for us. 
We can’t care for others without caring for ourselves first – that’s why when you’re on a plane, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before you help anyone else.  
So how do you look after yourself – and then in turn look after other people: 
I’d like to introduce you to something called the 5 ways to wellbeing.  A few years ago, a lot of time and money was spent researching whether there are ways that we can guarantee to improve our wellbeing.  And the results of the research were that there are 5 things we all need in our life if we’re to have good wellbeing.  And wellbeing is defined as feeling good and functioning well.  
And these 5 things are to 

Be active 
Take notice 
Keep learning 

Let’s go through those – connect – have people you can really connect with – preferably not just through a screen, but people you can trust and rely on. 
Be active – doesn’t have to be running a marathon, but exercise does release endorphins and makes us feel better.  Exercise is just as, if not more effective, in treating mild to moderate depression than medication is. 
Take notice – mindfulness is very popular at the moment – and for good reason.  If nothing else, the last year has taught us to be grateful for the small things.  Our minds are not created to do 50 things at once – there is a merit in doing just one thing and doing it well – take time to appreciate the small things – and the big things.  
Keep learning – our minds benefit when we try new things – whether that’s studying for a PhD, doing a daily sudoku or learning new activities for Messy Church, it’s good for us. 
And finally, probably the easiest one for anyone involved in Messy Church – it’s good for us to give – studies show that the reward centre of our brains light up when we do things for other people -so giving, our time, our energies, our effort is good for us.  
I’d like to challenge you to grab a piece of paper, write out the 5 ways along one axis and the days of the week on the other.  And have a think about which of those activities you’ve done in the last week.  Which of the 5 ways do you find it easiest to fit in, what’s the most challenging to fit in? 
For you, for your families – and for your Messy Church teams – it’s worth spending some time to see how you’re doing with these. Especially if you’re thinking about going back to MC in person and you’re not sure how your team are going to be with this, then it’s worth spending time to see how people are doing and how resilient they might be before you start anything again.  
Top tips 

Follow safeguarding guidance
Listen to understand, not to reply
Be patient and compassionate – give people space to talk
Signpost on if you need to – you don’t have to deal with every issue that comes your way
Make sure your team are on the same page as you 


Ignore safeguarding guidance
Try to ‘fix’ people
Tell people to pull themselves together / remind them that there are people worse off than them / dismiss them as ‘attention seeking’
Rush to tell people your story
Forget to practice self-care

Some useful links:

For immediate support – the Samaritans, SHOUT, Childline
For info and training for you and your team, go to
For signposting – and your local authorities Local Offer 

For church wellbeing resources, check out:

Renew Wellbeing
Living Life to the Full for Churches
Kintsugi Hope 


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