Tom wrote an enquiry to the website about single people and Messy Church. Might be worth jotting down our correspondence here for others:
I’m doing some reading about Messy Church as it may be something which could work very well at our church. I have a question I can’t seem to find the answer to in the literature…
In the ‘what Messy Church isn’t’ document it states that it isn’t just for families, but that everyone is welcome. When you run Messy Church is anyone allowed to come in, even if they don’t have children? Say, for example, could a single man or an elderly lady who have no children with them come in? (If so, how do you go about safeguarding effectively?)
I’m a little confused by this point as on p.21 of the Messy Church book it explicitly states that it is a ‘time when families come together’.
Perhaps this issue is explored somewhere else; I’d be very grateful for a pointer.
As a full answer, yes, absolutely, anybody is welcome to come to a Messy Church, whether they have children or not, and we have several elderly folk who come on their own and gain a great deal from it (and contribute a great deal towards it). Other Messy Churches have young students who help out and bring friends to enjoy it. I made the mistake in Messy Church 2 of saying adults needed to have a child with them to be allowed in but have since discovered that this would mean it’s not church, so am rather embarrassed about that line now: we live and learn.
Yes, it’s a time when families come together and we delight in the fact that ‘God sets the lonely in families’ and that means the family of the church is a real and active one to single people as well as larger ones.
As for child protection, it really isn’t an issue any more than it would be at a ‘standard’ church service. No children are there without an adult who is responsible for them, so the team is not in a supervisory role as they would be at a children’s club or Sunday school and all our leaders go through the safeguarding checks. The team is large, so if an adult arrived about whom we weren’t sure, we have plenty of people to keep a gentle eye on them.
I hope that’s reassuring. Do get back to me if you’re worried!
Your answer is really clear and has helped me to get my mind around the issue. It certainly sounds as though you’ve really learnt so much through doing Messy Church – and it’s so much to your credit that you’ve adapted from what you’d written on paper. When new things are done it will inevitably involve changing our ideas along the way – I guess for me the concern is that something really is church – and your answer has convinced me that it is, as church is for everyone.
We’ll be discussing whether we’d like to explore Messy Church further at our next PCC meeting, so I’m hoping that people will be positive about it!!