In 2012 the members of Great Moulton Chapel knew they had to try something new to connect with our surrounding community. It was decided that we would launch a 'Messy Church', as they had proved popular in other areas and the idea was growing. So on a Sunday afternoon in July 2012 we held our first Messy Church and we've been holding them monthly ever since. The idea started slowly, with four young children brought by their parents, but the encouraging fact for us was that these were new people, not regular church attendees. This doesn't sound a lot but it is for our rural setting, especially given that there is no other Church in our immediate area that has any children! The feedback from parents was good - the children enjoyed the afternoon to such an extent that they actually reminded their parents when the next month came round.
We are a very small fellowship with around a dozen people on a normal Sunday morning, however we see Messy Church as just as much 'Church' as any other service and are encouraged that it is attracting new young parents and children. Rural Ministries has supported this 'Messy Church' initiative via a grant and we were also given a Community Projects Award of £250 from the local district council. As we were blessed with this gift we felt it only right to bless others so we gave £50 each to the local foodbank and another local charity, leaving £150 to add to that given by Rural Ministries, to go directly to supporting 'Messy Church'. With this we were able to purchase craft equipment, pens, paper, paint materials etc. We have also bought a puppet for use in the story telling. Perhaps most importantly, at the Christmas party in December 2013 when we had mothers and fathers attending, we gave out 11, age appropriate, Bibles to the children.
The format of the Messy Church is evolving, and we now make use of slide presentations, and DvD's; they key is to make sure it is fun! We start the sessions with singing and dancing and then have some crafts followed by a story followed by a tea , which generally includes sandwiches, ice cream, jelly and cakes to round off the afternoon. We see our responsibility as not to make worship neat and tidy, but to make it the best that we can offer and as genuine, relevant, loving and 'Christ centred' as we are able.
It is our hope that other churches who may only have a few members in the congregation may be encouraged and inspired by our experience, and maybe will be persuaded to start their own 'Messy Church' adventure.