All-age is shorthand for being church for everybody, welcoming all ages, abilities, learning preferences, backgrounds, levels of interest in God and spiritual style.

Messy Church tries to be a gathering of people whose identity is, or might one day grow into being, in Christ.

One traditional model of gathered church is that of sending the children and young people out to their own groups during the main service, so the adults can learn and worship in a particular way and the young people in another.

Messy Church is the opposite of this.

It has at its heart the creation of a space where people of all ages come together safely to learn and worship. It is based on the concept that the church is the body of Christ and that we need each other, in all our differences, to grow as followers of Jesus. Children can learn from adults and adults can learn from children. We all learn how to love each other and to love God by spending time together, worshipping God together, being a model of discipleship for others and letting others be models for us.

The shape of Messy Church is created around the needs of families with children, though, of course, these needs may also be present in the lives of individuals who are at a different stage of family life, such as single people of any age or people living far away from their families. ‘God sets the lonely in families’ and always has, and Messy Church is an opportunity to enjoy the life, liveliness, loving care and purpose of the family of God at all stages of life.

Messy Togetherness

Being intergenerational in Messy Church

In Messy Togetherness, Martyn Payne looks at Messy Church as an all-age expression of church and the benefits of this to the church community.

He explores current thinking about faith development, gives a biblical rationale for the all-age approach, offers practical advice and shares stories and ideas from across the Messy Church network.

The book also contains three complete outlines for Messy Church sessions (from the Old Testament, the gospels and the epistles), which offer Bible stories with insights into what it means to be intergenerational as church.

Another book by Martyn Payne, Messy Parables, provides 25 retellings for all ages.

Messy Togetherness Messy Parables

Becoming and staying all-age

A checklist for your team

  • How much do you think your Messy Church is a witness to God’s kingdom in your community in deliberately bringing adults and children together to learn from each other and worship together?
  • Do children learn to worship better apart from adults or together with them? And what about adults…?
  • Which parts of your Messy Church need tweaking to be more appropriate for all ages?
  • How do you/could you treat adults who come on their own?
  • How seriously do you take ‘being all-age’ as a core value when it comes to your next step in discipling families?

From the blog