Messy Cathedrals

Published 10th October 2016 by Messy Church

The guide shows you the best way to host a Messy Cathedral, along with lots of other ideas that are worth considering!

How Do We Run a Messy Cathedral Event?

Running a Messy Cathedral event is a brilliant idea! It provides the opportunity to showcase Messy Church in the region, it helps to enlighten people who may be thinking about starting their own Messy Church and it can also encourage those who are already involved in a Messy Church, not forgetting the joy of taking part in a Messy Church together in a high-profile building.

Working in partnership with your cathedral

Messy Cathedral is a partnership between the cathedral and the Messy Church teams in your area.

  • Make initial contact with staff at the cathedral, possibly the Education team.
  • Establish a suitable date for your event—often up to twelve months in advance, to fit in with other events in the cathedral.
  • Agree with cathedral staff on members of the core planning team and their responsibilities.
  • Make sure you get in contact with the Diocesan children’s adviser to talk through how you will plan the day.
  • Find out whether or not the cathedral will charge you, how much, and who is underwriting the whole event.


Messy Cathedral often brings with it the need for negotiation. Numbers attending may be large and there may be restrictions on what you can and can’t do, all of which could have an impact on the type of activities you are able to offer and the materials you can use.

  • Be aware of the space that you will be using for your event. Hold a site meeting and negotiate how much space you will need and what is available.
  • Cathedrals tend to have many ‘nooks and crannies’, so make sure maps are available at various strategic places—for example, toilets, activity stations, eating area, chill-out zone, and so on.
  • Find out any restrictions on materials that can be used (for example, no paint, no glitter, no water and so on). This list may be extensive, but should not be insurmountable.
  • Check the possibility of using the sound system.
  • Plan extra litter bins.
  • Decide the theme that you will use. Make sure you bear in mind that this may be a stand-alone event, so it may be seasonal.
  • Identify the area where the celebration will take place.
  • Create publicity and plan a timetable for publicising the event.
  • Organise a designated photographer.
  • Hold regular planning sessions with members of the team.
  • Advertise on the Messy Church website.

Setting Up

Be aware that a Messy Cathedral event will be part of the cathedral’s daily schedule, so there may be little time to set up and, possibly, restricted access.

  • To ensure a speedy set-up, complete all preparation offsite and have everything you need for each activity boxed up and ready to go.
  • Use Messy Church banners, pop-ups and signs wherever you can, both inside and outside the cathedral.
  • Set up a welcome table at the entrance, with registration forms and stickers for name badges, plus carrier bags to take things home in.
  • If using food ingredients, display them boldly in case of allergies.
  • Be sure to check for photo permissions at the welcome table if you plan to take photographs. Display a poster with a photo of the photographer of the day, saying how the photos will be used.
  • Optimise the space available and try to spread out your activity areas to maximise visual impact throughout the cathedral.


As well as your planning team, you will need to identify other volunteers to help run your Messy Cathedral event.

  • Draw volunteers from the Messy Churches across the region, cathedral volunteers and staff, and try to involve some young leaders.
  • Alternatively, particular Messy Church teams could be responsible for running an activity. This would mean that they are in charge of getting all the necessary items, setting up, taking down, and so on.
  • Ensure that those in leadership and with responsibility have appropriate DBS disclosures.
  • Provide all team members with a briefing sheet of information relevant to the event, a lanyard with their name displayed and an outline of the programme.
  • Assign team members to specific activities, ensuring they are confident with the task.
  • Invite Messy Churches to come as an alternative to their monthly session.


Just as in Messy Church, the activities need to be varied, and suitable for mixed ages and abilities.

  • Ensure a variety and balance of activities, paying specific attention to suggestions for how to talk about the activities.
  • Ensure you have a flexible amount of materials, to allow for the possibility of large numbers attending.
  • Encourage families to participate in activities together, as some may not be used to this if they are new to Messy Church.


This is a time when the session is drawn together and the focus of the message is highlighted. It is a real opportunity for fun and engagement with the whole congregation.

  • Make sure everyone can hear, see and sit comfortably.
  • Keep it simple. Do you really need that projector and screen?
  • Be specific and positive in your message and leave the crowd wanting more.
  • Be clear on the running order and who is delivering each component, to ensure the celebration flows well.


The venue will dictate exactly how your hospitality will look. You may need to think outside the box!

  • Not every cathedral will allow food to be consumed inside, so you may need to be creative and find alternatives, such as a picnic area outdoors.
  • If the weather is bad or your event is in the winter months, try to arrange a space where you can host families who may have brought their own packed lunch.

The next step…

Invariably you’ll be asked when the next event is going to be.

  • Direct people to the Messy Church website, where they can find out where their nearest Messy Church is, if they don’t already attend.
  • Prepare a list of local Messy Churches in the region for families to explore, or give out generic Messy Church leaflets.
  • Plan a training day on starting a Messy Church, as a follow-up soon after the cathedral event, and publicise it.
  • Have the contact details of your Regional Coordinators readily available.
  • Get ready for your next Messy Cathedral event!
  • Remind the cathedral that a growing number of cathedrals are now holding a regular monthly Messy Church.

With thanks to Anne Offler and Sharon Pritchard

For more hints, tips and stories about hosting a Messy Cathedral, visit our Messy Blog.

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