Where was God at work in Messy Church in 2022?

Published 23rd January 2023 by Aike Kennett-Brown

At the start of a new year, it’s good practice to pause for a moment and reflect on the year that’s past, giving thanks to God for both the opportunities and challenges. Noticing where you see God at work in your ministry serves as a good reminder of God’s faithfulness in all we do, as we prayerfully ask the questions: Qhat went well? Even better if?

Last week, Sally, Jane and I met at BRF HQ and took time to notice God at work through the ministry of the BRF Messy Church team in 2022. Here is what we came up with:

We thank God for…

  • Each other! We love working together as the new BRF Messy Church team.
  • Messy Church Conference in May – for effective teamwork; fellowship with Messy Church practitioners; inspiring talks from Dr Paula Gooder and workshops by our support team and young leaders.
  • Key International Leaders Days – forging new friendships with national Messy Church leaders across the globe; prayer; ‘dwelling in the word’ together; and learning from each other.
  • Messy Church Goes Wild – release of the multi-author book, introductory video, development of Messy Adventures resource (so many people to thank here!) and the opportunity to try out new material at Messy Church Conference and roadshows in Gloucester and Chelmsford Dioceses.
  • Glorious weather on the team retreat in June – an opportunity to pause, go on prayer walks, listen to God and reimagine the new season of Messy Church.
  • The momentum of the masterclasses – expanding the original offer of three topics (Starting, Reimagining, Discipleship) to include Communion, Baptism and Messy Church Goes Wild. A total of 30 masterclasses were delivered by the BRF team and five volunteer trainers, with 254 attendees.
  • New partnerships to create resources – the Messy Church Bin Twinning session created with Tearfund and making connections with Hazelnut Community Farm around Messy Church Goes Wild.
  • Development of a racial justice Messy Church session with Arul, Sonia and May.
  • Messy Church starting in Norway; for the October study visit by the Norwegian Mission Society and Sunday School team, and the Messy Churches who hosted them.
  • Our support teams and all their wisdom, advice, prayer and coaching skills they’ve freely given to those starting and restarting Messy Church in 2022.
  • Online Messy Meet-ups – the chance to connect and hear from individual Messy Churches.
  • Our Messy Young Leaders, who host the international young leaders’ Zoom.
  • 1476 Messy Churches on the directory, of which 144 were new during 2022, representing an amazing bunch of people involved in Messy Church, with a heart for bringing God’s kingdom to our local communities.
  • BRF and all the people within the charity that support our team.
  • People who financially support BRF Messy Church, enabling the creation of Jane’s training and development role.

So much to thank God for in 2022!

Like any ministry, we’ve had our challenges: we’ve learnt that ideas take so much longer than you expect to turn into actions; we never have enough time to do all the things and connect with all the people we’d like to; we feel the isolation of remote working – technology is convenient, but not quite the same as in person; and the cost of living crises has meant donations that fund the BRF Messy Church team have dropped, keeping us reliant on God for financial provision.

Finally, we have seen a reduction in the number of Messy Churches, resulting from the long overdue directory clean-up, highlighting the impact that Covid-19 has had on the shape of Messy Church in the UK. We acknowledge the pain of Messy Church leaders who have stopped their ministries, as we read their reasons. However, we want to say a big thank you and celebrate all the good things (or God things) that have happened during the lifetime of these Messy Churches. We believe there has been a time of pruning within the movement, and we are encouraged by ‘green shoots’ of new growth, demonstrated through the 144 new UK registrations throughout 2022.

I am reminded of John 15:5 where Jesus declares:

‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’

As we launch into 2023, I am challenged to take the Messy Church value of being Christ-centred seriously, committing ourselves, our ministries, our opportunities and our challenges to Jesus through listening and prayer.

I wonder…

  • What are your 2022 highlights and challenges?
  • Where have you noticed God at work?
  • Where has God been faithful?
  • What do you need to commit to our loving God in prayer?

Aike Kennett-Brown
BRF Messy Church ministry lead

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