Encouraging participation

Published 27th February 2013 by Messy Church

Joining in! Doing stuff! Being a player, not a spectator! However you want to put it, it’s really important to give everyone the chance to participate as much as possible in all parts of Messy Church as participation is a way for people to feel they belong, to learn and to stay engaged.

Participation in the welcome time

Is anyone hanging back, too shy to join in the board games or activities at the start? Have you got enough leaders to keep an eye open for newcomers and to join in alongside them?

Participation during the crafts

We all know it can be difficult to encourage adults to join in making things. Leading by example and making sure all the team are engaged in ‘having a go’ when they’re not actually helping others can give permission to reticent people to ‘have a go’ themselves. Having some crafts which are slightly more ‘extreme’ or advanced may encourage adults to feel it’s a ‘them’ time. You could have a table set aside for people to bring their own craft to, to do in company of others – scrapbooking, sewing, painting models.

Participation during the celebration

We so often fall back on a traditional ‘performer / audience’ model without realising, with the leader or minister as the performer and everyone else as audience. It may be easier to keep control, but may not be the most effective approach to worship for this group of people. Singing is a great participative tool. Encouraging an ‘anything goes’ music group can give a place for aspiring musicians to try out playing in a band for the first time. Prayers can be active, creative, ‘altogether’ ones rather than a list read out by one person at the front. The story can involves responses, space for thought or discussion, actors or movement. Silence, strangely, is perhaps the most useful tool to encourage participation as the emphasis is on one’s own response to God. There are lots of ideas for interaction in worship on the Barnabas in churches website. You will have more that you may like to share via the link at the end of this article.

Participation during the meal

Some Messy Churches only give children food and expect the adults to stand back and watch. But we could be modelling a much more effective style of eating together where adults get to chat to other people’s children as well as their own. Teenagers get to help feed the babies. Children can have a good giggle with other people’s Dads. It’s not just about food, it’s about relationships.

Participation in the work

If people offer to help set up or clear up, remember this may be their way of saying, ‘I want to belong more’. Joining in the work behind the scenes shows true ownership and even if it means leaders letting go of a little of the control and being gracious enough to accept the offer of help, can be a first step towards a deeper commitment to God.

These are some very basic ways we can help people participate. How have you encouraged people to join in? Send your ideas in to inspire others.