Messy Church Goes Wild Roadshows

Published 16th October 2023 by Aike Kennett-Brown

Over the past year, the BRF ministries Messy Church Team have been out and about showcasing Messy Church Goes Wild, thanks to a grant from Scientists in Congregations. It’s been an opportunity to encourage Messy Churches, and those interested in outdoor worship, to engage with God’s creation, experience the new Messy Adventures resources and start to re-imagine ways to bring it to life in their own worshipping communities.

In September 2022, we started off in glorious sunshine at Viney Hill Christian Adventure Centre, Gloucestershire, with over 120 people, including Bishop Rachel Treweek. We had a full day to explore Jesus’ story of the mustard seed through a variety of activities that related to different parts of the parable. Whittling sticks and bark stripping was a firm favourite, leading to discussions on the properties of trees and the creatures that might live within them. It was also the perfect day to lie on our backs and watch the clouds, considering which ones might give us rain needed for the growth cycle and to ponder on what we need to grow in our faith. We finished with a short interactive outdoor celebration of song, storytelling, and prayer, led by the Gloucester Diocese team.

“The organised activities were great, and we saw the children’s imaginations producing their own ideas and play. One of the children said that it was the ‘best day ever’.  Thank you for a wonderful day that we could experience with our children and families without the preparation, and now you have provided us with more ideas to use in our church.”

In October, as the Autumn leaves started to fall, Aike headed off to Hornchurch, Essex, accompanied by a group of church leaders from Norway, on tour to discover more about Messy Church. We were hosted by the Karen Dunstan and team at St. Andrew’s in Hornchurch, who were part of the initial Messy Church Goes Wild pilot. The team took us on a ‘Wild and Wiggly’ adventure, looking at insects and minibeasts to help us think about how little things, little people and little details matter to Jesus, through the story of Jesus meeting Zacchaeus in Luke 19. The group busily made bug hotels out of re-cycled tin cans, as well as creating insects out of fruit segments, joined by cocktail sticks, which were swiftly eaten before we gathered for our celebration. We had just returned inside the church for tea and cake, when a short rain shower, followed quickly by sunshine, blessed us with a vivid rainbow above the church.

During April 2023, we ambitiously visited two locations on the same day, enabled by Bath & Wells Diocese. In the morning we welcomed over 50 people at St. John’s Church, Wellington.

One approach to outdoor worship is to go ‘on the move’, a walk around your area, pausing at different points to play, discover, question, and wonder together about ideas that the spot inspires. Following the script in the ‘Wild Life’ adventure, Aike led a group around the church yard, marvelling at the cherry blossom trees, which inspired conversations around the changing seasons in our lives and the different seasons in Jesus’ ministry.

Meanwhile, Sally, our team fire expert, demonstrated her top tips for the art of outdoor cooking, whilst local volunteers led a variety of activities, with some surprising results. Whilst testing the pH of the soil found in a mole hill (we were checking if we had good soil for growing seed as in the parable of the sower), some teeth were discovered! You never know what you might discover in a churchyard!

If your church doesn’t have any outside space, an alternative approach is to have a Messy Adventure in one spot. In other words, you host your session at a fixed site away from your usual meeting place. We wanted to try this approach, so that afternoon, we were hosted by Yew Tree Farm, near Clevedon, Bristol. Joined by 35 people, we went ‘on the move’ session around the working farmyard, admiring the calves and lambs. Right on cue our expert farmer appeared to tell us about his prize-winning sheep. Then, as we paused by a small pond, a 10-year-old girl piped up, ‘so who wants to get baptised?’ An amazing discussion followed, with people in the group sharing their baptism stories.

After the activities in the orchard, we particularly enjoyed our celebration time around the firepit. In small groups, we were encouraged to make up two sentence praise psalms about our time together, linked by Psalm 24:1. Here’s what our group came up with:

We thank you God for climbing trees, for butterflies, snails and bees;

               The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1).

Our final roadshow came in September 2023, with Jane and Sally heading up to Stockport, in a last burst of Summer sunshine. Hosted by Cath Downs and the team at Norbury Parish Church, we welcomed 43 people. It wasn’t Jane’s first trip to the Church having been there for her friend Carolyn’s wedding 25 years ago! She was a little apprehensive ahead of leading the ‘On the move’ session for the first time. ‘I spend a lot of time talking about the different approaches to taking Messy Church outside but ‘On the move’ was the only thing I hadn’t had a go at before. I worry that people think I’m an expert when I’m a Messy Church leader having a go at something new just like everyone else! I shouldn’t have worried though. I followed the Messy Adventures material and the conversation flowed. One of our aims of the Messy Adventures was to produce a set of resources to give the most unconfident leader the tools and confidence to take their Messy Church outdoors so I can safely say we’ve achieved that!’

We had a brilliant time, and it was such a buzz to mix with dedicated Messy Church leaders and those wanting to experiment with outdoor worship. But don’t just take our word for it, here’s some of our feedback:

‘We really enjoyed attending yesterday and feel very inspired to make a start at a messy church goes wild at our church in October half term as a result! We have a very small, rural (beautiful) Church, with an outside loo! been in vacancy for a couple of years, and been wondering how we could further serve our local community. I feel I have found an answer to our prayers!’

Informative, fun, creative.’

‘Inspiring – good to be part of a community of like-minded people.’

‘It was amazing!’

‘More of the same. Helps us to grow, recognise not isolated voices. We are a church.

Feeling inspired?

Check out the Messy Church Goes Wild

Keep an eye out for our Messy Church Goes Wild masterclass

Want to host your own bespoke in person Messy Church Goes Wild training? Contact us

Aike, Jane and Sally

BRF ministries Messy Church team

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