Two remaining reports from the teenagers’ day in Yate. The first is from Miriam Thurlow who scribed what the teenagers discussed in their separate group. The second from Alison Thurlow gives the reactions of three of the group in more detail.
1. What do you most enjoy about your Messy Church?
The response to this question was mixed, some people love the big messy crafts (like flicking paint, making gloop out of corn flour and crafts involving food) whereas others like taking more time over a craft and making something they are really proud of. They also said they like the responsibility of running a table themselves. The conversation then turned to jobs that some leaders may think teenagers don’t want to do, but actually the teenagers don’t mind doing – for example cleaning up at the end of Messy Church. They said that they are actually quite happy to help clear up and put things away, but they would rather not help with the washing up!!
2. How do you serve God through your Messy Church?
There were lots of different ways in which the teenagers felt that they could serve God through Messy Church:
Getting to know the families and talking to them each month
Telling the story during the celebration (would like the opportunity more often)
Leading the craft and having the chance to talk to people about both the story and their own experiences
Preparing the crafts and having the responsibility of making sure it is ready
Helping people to praise God (playing piano, helping with the actions, narrating the story)
3. Would you say you come to Messy Church mostly to give or to get?
The initial response was almost unanimously ‘to give’ but as we discussed it further we found we also gain a lot of things too:
Fun and enjoyment of Messy Church
Learn more about the Bible (going over stories we may know but looking them in a new way, discover details you may have missed before, going back to basics and remembering things we may have learnt a long time ago)
The creative prayers often used in the celebration give us a chance to stop and think – like the simplicity of the questions often asked
4. Do you think Messy Church is a good place for teenagers to grow as Christians?
We had a really interesting discussion about this question and the teenagers had lots of things to say about it:
Messy Church is not an intimidating place and so they feel safe to be themselves, and to bring and receive a different perspective on faith and understanding
Can learn a lot from talking to other people your own age and seeing how they have grown in their own faith
Have the chance to see the difference between their lives and the lives of other teenagers (Christian and non-Christian)
If involved in the planning of Messy Church, they said they gained a lot from hearing the adults’ testimonies
5. What advice would you give to a Messy Church leader who wanted to keep teenagers coming to Messy Church/have teenagers on the leadership team?
Have crafts/activities that are suitable for all ages (not specific activities for teenagers)
Have a transitional phase to being a member of the team (half the time leading the craft, half the time participating)
Don’t restrict what teenagers can do (not just helping with the craft)
Don’t assume things about teenagers (open minded attitude to what teenagers are able to do / welcoming and encouraging us to try new things)
Don’t have one specific role for teenagers
They liked the idea of occasionally having a day out for teenagers who help at Messy Church
Main ideas from the prayer activity in the celebration:
encourage the teenagers and thank them for what they do
family and teenagers coming together ad growing together
teenagers can be role models too
keep asking what we are trying to do and why
trust teenagers to do things
flexibility and choice for teenagers on the team
And from Alison:
What did you most enjoy about the day?
I most enjoyed the activity where we went around the large paper square discussing our Messy Churches. It felt really relaxed, everyone contributed and I was able to have some great conversations where I learned a lot of things about others Messy Churches. Did you pick up any new ideas that we could try out Messy Church?
For teenagers, I think the most exciting idea would be to have some GIANT socials (NO ADULTS) for example laser quest or water fight.
I also really liked the idea of having smaller ‘teenage’ socials in our local messy church however; I don’t feel it fits in with the aim of Messy Church and fitting in time to get good numbers will be tricky and the majority already know each other from our youth. But, it may work for another Messy Church.Some other ideas I liked were:
Possibly having tea/coffee and maybe biscuits during ‘games’
‘Extra’ Messy Church on a separate day for those who want to explore the months theme in more depth
Two people per table so each ‘helper’ has the chance to explore other activities
What one piece of advice would you give to adult leaders who want to involve teenagers in running of their Messy Church?
There is no straightforward answer but I think that sometimes people can forget that we [teenagers] are humans. No matter how stupid it may sound most teenagers just want to be respected and treated like adults.
What was your favourite part of the day?
My favourite thing about the day was the discussion that took place in the church at the start of the day. The discussion was based on the 4 main areas of messy church: welcome, craft, celebration, and the meal. Everyone was encouraged to talk about what they do at their MC and some of the problems that they face with including teenagers in these areas. I felt really encouraged to hear the success stories of other MCs but I also enjoyed being able to talk about the problems and possible resolutions in such a positive atmosphere. Even though I had never met the guests before everyone felt able to share and bounce ideas off of each other and there was such purpose and excitement in the conversations because we were all there with a shared vision. I liked being able to share what we do at our MC and really appreciated how blessed we are with our team and large versatile building. It was a really positive exercise and so many ideas and encouragements came from the discussion.
What idea could be brought into MC?
I like the idea of, during the craft, allowing teenagers to take part in the activities and also be responsible for a craft table. This would be done by having two young people overseeing a craft table but having only one at the table at a time while the other is taking part in the activities and then swapping over. This means that teenagers on the team have a more equal balance of serving and being served and I think relationships between the team and the guests will be strengthened as the team are able to mingle more.
What advice would you give to an adult leader who wants to include teenagers on the team?
Don’t be afraid to give teenagers big responsibilities, listen to their ideas, let them develop and learn new skills and talents by giving them slightly different tasks each time and/or letting them try something completely new like being part of the cook team because that way they will feel respected and able to contribute to the team in a way they feel comfortable.
I think that the Ice Breaker was a really good way of getting to know everyone and was fun too. I think that the teenagers having their own discussion in the quiet room was really great as well because it was a nice way of finding out what everyone really thought about Messy Church with people their own age. I think that our Messy Church is running very nicely and the only way to improve it might be to perhaps think through the seating arrangement for the celebration but other than that I don’t know except for adding food during the games at the beginning of course! One piece of advice to give to adult leaders wanting to involve teenagers in Messy Church is always give them a choice. Every person likes and wants to do something different, maybe in the planning, the crafts or cooking but don’t ever tell them to do something they don’t want to do otherwise they’ll probably leave very quickly!
I really enjoyed everybody being there and the sense of belonging. I hope everybody feels that there are lots of young people that are in the same place as them, at messy church. I also really enjoyed the discussions and how everybody got involved, we even talked about a big teenager messy church gathering in the centre of Bristol – water fight maybe!
When we were comparing what we did at each of our messy churches, one idea came up that sounded like a good idea; during the welcome, there would be tea and biscuits available. This might work for us, but you have to consider the circumstances of each messy church around the world – it might work for your messy church, or it might not.
I would say to adult leaders that wanted to involve teenagers, don’t put teenagers in a category, we like to be different in our own ways, just like you! We have our own personalities, so tailor crafts to suit us – or let us tailor it in our own way. Involve us in your discussions – we like to know what’s going on. Finally, let us have fun because everybody likes to have fun!