I’ve had a couple of emails recently from leaders with a BIG problem: they fear too many people coming to Messy Church! So put that in your ‘church is dead’ pipe and smoke it, oh people who say church attendance is dropping irredeemably.
But it is a problem, as nobody wants to turn folk away, but at the same time, you need to keep things safe and manageable and have some level of intimacy. I’ll copy one of the emails below with my answer, but if you have any further inspiration, do email me and I’ll share your wisdom around.
One thing I would suggest to everyone is that you let your diocesan / area / synod / district missioner know what numbers you’re getting, and perhaps an anecdote about how it’s affected a person or family, so that Messy Church is taken seriously as part of the outreach of your church.
Enquiry:’Hi Team/Lucy,I’m a minister in Hertfordshire and we started a Messy Church at Hoddesden around 6 months ago. We are now faced with the problem of having to limit numbers in order that we remain safe and are able to build up relationships. (60 is the number we’ve chosen). However, we have some issues about how to do this: if we go for 1st come 1st served, we may lose famillies who have been attending regularly. But limiting to those who come regularly may dissuade the families who attend who need the flexibility of choosing at the last minute and are not used to ‘pre-booking’… Are you able to give us any advice?Many thanks, Christine’
‘Dear ChristineThanks for your enquiry… Oh dear, what a good problem to have! I think it’s a VERY good idea to limit numbers for the reasons you mention – it’s too easy to get carried away with large numbers and reduce relationships to lowest common denominator.
‘My only experience of this is a church in Surrey (Holy Trinity Claygate – their contact is on the directory if you want to get in touch) which had the same problem with their MC and prayerfully decided to hold two a month and encourage people to come only once – the two MCs have the same programme but different teams who help each other with advice and materials. They’re a huge church so have the people-power to do this – I don’t know how many team members you can draw on…
‘It would be worth you drawing this problem / opportunity to the attention of your diocesan missioner , children’s adviser, bishop and point out the crying need in this area: there may be a way they can suggest that if you don’t have enough people or energy to run two, they could pay someone to help you(!) Other possibilities might be to enlist the help of another local church and run a MC there with them, then leave them to run it on their own after you’ve got them going. And it’s also worth putting the problem to the families who come and asking for their help: could they do more to help run it?
‘On the immediate front, if you do have to turn families away, it’s worth thinking about having a little goodie bag with some of the crafts in to do at home to soften the blow.
‘Would you mind if I put your question on the blog on the website as other people may have wisdom on it?
‘Every blessing and congratulations – you and your team are evidently doing a great job!
Any thoughts, anyone?