An interesting query on the website and I found myself writing at length, probably incoherently but here we go:
‘Hi, and congratulations on an innovative idea. I understand the ethos of Messy Church but wondered whether the broader longer-term aim was to integrate the members of Messy Church into the mainstream activities of the ‘mother’ church, i.e. Sunday school for the children and Sunday worship and midweek Bible study etc. for the adults. If not, how will those that attend Messy Church develop and grow their understanding of Church and being a Christian?’
And my reply:
‘Thanks for your enquiry to the website and for your kind words. I think the honest answer is that we don’t yet know and are waiting to see what happens.
‘In my big picture thinking, I am adamant that we are all one universal church and that we use all the best resources of that church – from history and across the world and in all its different traditions and denominations – to reach as many people with God’s love in Jesus as we possibly can. So if icons work, great. If charismatic songs work, brill. And for some people, Messy Church may be a lifetime’s commitment and gives them all they need to grow in Christ; for others it may be a church they’re in for a while that leads them on to another form of church (just like I was in a vibrant student evangelical church for a few years but moved on to a different expression of church in a Yorkshire village). God knows one size doesn’t fit all. So yes to integration and all of us “using” the church’s resources to grow the kingdom.
I think the problem is that as soon as we say Messy Church or any other form of church is just a feeder into what we see as a “better” form of church, we start creating a hierarchy that assumes traditional church has got it right and is the best way of being church for all people. I don’t believe it is (and I say this as a person who is very committed to “trad” Anglican church myself). And I would like to see the same questions that you ask being asked of most Sunday churches: are people who come really growing or are they consumers? I don’t think that they count as growing merely because – for example – they give more money, or just come along on a Sunday. If mainstream church activities help Messy families grow closer to God, great, encourage them into those activities. But something like Sunday School, for example, splits up a family and takes children out of the main body of worshippers, which in my view isn’t the “best” way of being church.
I would like to help churches understand Messy Church as “real church”, “proper church” as much as Sunday church is, and to use every opportunity to learn, go deeper, serve from that context rather than feeling that we’re failing because some people only belong to Messy Church. We’re working slowly as the Spirit leads and as possibilities open up, on how to encourage Faith at Home amongst those families. We’re developing ideas for prayer in gathered church and at home. At BRF we’re looking at Bible reading resources specifically for teams and Messy families.
I would also like to see Sunday church learning from Messy Church, just as MC learns from Sunday church: how to be participative in worship, how to serve, how to enjoy church as a family (for starters!). But that takes a lot of humility from the Sunday congregation’s point of view. It should be mutual sharing, not a one-way flow.
I have rabbited on too long and you’re probably snoring by now. It’s a fascinating question.
Every blessing in your own ministry,Lucy’