Stow Baptist is a small rural Church in the midst of the Cotswolds, and part of the Rural Ministries family. We have a big heart for welcoming others, especially children. In December 2011 we held our first Messy Church. With a small team of just six helpers we stepped out in faith trusting God for a successful turnout. Our theme was Messy Christmas, we had just six tables comprising crafts, face painting, cake decorating and never to be repeated 'Donkey Dung', which proved to be quite popular.
Fifteen children turned up and although small in comparison to where we are now that first Messy Church will always be the dearest to our hearts. After an hour of crafts we took the children into the Church where our Worship Leader led them with a few songs and our drummer told the Christmas story. Afterwards, and much to the children's delight we fed them with lots of goodies.
We quickly learned the importance of having a good relationship with the local school; on the week just before the school breaks up for the half-term holidays we take flyers in to advertise Messy Church. Following the success of early Messy Church services, word has quickly spread and parents who do not have children in the local school soon get to know about Messy Church at Stow Baptist. They turn up with babies and toddlers and often have to park their prams in the main Church because it is so popular.
We have come a long way since that first Messy Church, indeed we now have a single Mum with five children who regularly attends Sunday services as a result of Messy Church. The benefits have not just been to our morning congregation, but also in seeing how a small rural church can all pull together for the sake of mission. It has been an event that has brought an increased sense of unity to our church.
Messy Church continues to thrive in Stow; our highest number attending to date has been 41 children, and we now have a dedicated boys' room for table football which our Worship Leader runs very successfully and feel encouraged by the comments of the parents and grandparents.
In terms of advice to other rural churches, we have found it important to think of follow-up events to promote, and to this end we have run two Holiday Clubs following Messy Church in the summer, and are already looking forward to a third this July.