Messy Church has never been a ‘lone ranger’ ministry. It requires people to get involved, which in turn helps them feel they belong to the community, as they take small steps of service on their discipleship journey. Even if you’ve managed to develop a culture where everyone pitches up with an expectation to help on the day, often a Messy Church relies on a small core planning team. Since the pandemic, some teams have become smaller.
It can feel lonely being the leader. I wonder if Jesus ever felt lonely as he attempted to lead his band of misfit disciples. We know he actively sought time alone to pray and be with his heavenly father, after a busy spell of ministry. However, as well as time alone with God, Jesus also said:
‘When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there’ (Matthew 18:18-20, The Message).
Perhaps the key to sustaining your team and shaking off any loneliness that comes with leadership is to form a support group with two or three other local Messy Church leaders. If your denomination has a children, youth and families advisor, you might like to check with them first to find out if a local support group already exists. You can, of course, get support via Zoom or phone from the Messy Church support teams and join our national Zoom meet-ups to swap seasonal ideas, but there’s nothing like meeting with others who share a similar context and can understand the challenges and maybe share in the opportunities too.
Perhaps you’ve always viewed the Messy Church down the road as ‘the competition’? If that’s the case, it’s time to reframe and remember that we’re all coworkers, joining in with God to build God’s kingdom, as each Messy Church invites the local community to discover the love of God through the story of Jesus. If you don’t know your Messy Church neighbour, go to the Messy Church Directory and search for other Messy Churches in your area and fix a date to meet. You might want to have the first meeting on neutral ground in a café or pub, enjoying others’ hospitality for a change. Or for those involved with Messy Church Goes Wild, gather for a walk, and remember to bring your headtorch if you’re out and about in the darker months of the year.
We hope that these gatherings of two or three leaders or core teams will be a time of encouragement and prayer, as you share where you have seen God at work in your Messy Church. Create a safe space and be honest with each other about your challenges. Maybe you’ll discover you have similar issues and are able to problem-solve together. You might like to pick up the discipleship self-review toolkit and pick an area e.g. the celebration time, and share ideas of what’s working well or where you need some help, and see what you can borrow from other leaders for your context.
Your discussions might highlight training needs for the wider team. If you need something more specific than our programme of online Masterclasses, the BRF Messy Church team can connect you with an appropriate local trainer, which might be more affordable when the cost is spread between several local Messy Churches.
If recruiting volunteers for the planning team is a challenge, you might consider planning your Messy Church sessions together, but delivering them in different locations. Similarly, what can you do missionally together to make Messy Church more visible to the community, that would be impossible if it were just one Messy Church? For example, could two local Messy Churches work together to host some activities at a local ‘Parksfest’ or primary school summer fayre? In my area in London, there is a series of ‘Parkfests’ over the summer months. One parish that has three churches visited two Parksfests and had a Messy Church gazebo, providing pin badge and bookmark-making activities, whilst handing out flyers advertising the next Messy Church and offering prayer in a creative prayer area. The activities were prepared once but delivered twice by different volunteers.
The BRF Messy Church team are busying connecting their local Messy Church leaders together and we encourage you to do the same. Let’s not underestimate the power of praying together and Jesus’ promise that, ‘when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.’
BRF Messy Church ministry lead