Connect with other Messy Churches across the USA!

Connect with other Messy Churches across the USA!

By Roberta Egli, Team Leader Messy Church USA

March 1, 2018

Now is the time…to register your Messy Church on the Messy Church USA Network! Our mission at Messy Church USA is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA. In order to connect, we need you to register to become a member of the Network. It should only take a few minutes on the website to choose one of three options to officially become a member.

We have set up a yearly renewable registration to keep our data base up to date. Our goal is to make sure that EVERY Messy Church within the USA can join the network and be represented on the Messy Church USA website directory that is coming soon. Learn more about the benefits of each level on the Membership page of website.

Messy Church USA Network Options
            1) Network Sustainer $ 200 per year
            2) Network Supporter $ 50 per year
            3) Network Registrant $ 0 per year

In the six months that we have officially been an organization, it has been amazing to learn about all the great Messy Churches that are thriving in the USA and also those who are just getting started. God is doing a great thing in and through Messy Church to share love and grace to new people in new places! We have just begun our work to equip local churches and we need YOU to register! To fulfill our goal to equip and connect local Messy Churches we need to have your information to connect you with each other and with our fantastic regional coordinators and trainers.

Our all volunteer Messy Church USA Board met in person for the first time on February 19th at the home of Rev. Nicole Reilley in California.  We had a great time growing as a team, clarifying our mission and setting goals for our future. As a group, we affirmed that we are to be instruments attuned with Creator God who is breathing life into the  global movement of Messy Church.

We took a break for a selfie, from left to right: Nicole, Roberta, Lynn, Marty, Julie and Leyla. 

Look for an upcoming March Newsletter and blog posts introducing each of our regional coordinators!

Messy Blessings to you all! Roberta

February 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to Messy Lent! Check out Roberta’s Messy Lenten Reflection about learning to embrace the wilderness. How are you recognizing Lent in your February and March Messy Churches? Share your ideas on our Messy Church USA FB page.

We are growing! Since January1, 2017 when we began our data base system, 23 new Messy Churches have been added to our data base! In addition, Roberta has made two trips to Colorado to train a cohort of 11 churches that received a grant for Messy Church training and a year’s work of monthly coaching sessions through the Mountain Sky region of the United Methodist Church.

As you may remember, we made a change in mid-January to offer three tiers to our yearly Network Membership: 1) Registration Level at $ 0.00, 2) Supporter Level at $ 50 per year and 3) Sustainer at $ 200 per year. This change has created has led to some more work that needs to be done on our website so we are asking for you to wait ( I know it is hard to wait!) to register until I send out a REGISTER NOW email!

We have also grown as regional coordinators. We now have 8 regional Coordinators for the USA. I have asked them to submit a short bio that I can use for a short blog post so that you can get to know them. As they get going, they hope to begin to offer some Messy Meet Ups.

There are two April Training events scheduled that are open for all. The first is April 7th at Roseburg First United Methodist Church in Roseburg, Oregon. The second is on April 14th at Layfayette UMC in the Bay Area of California. Information will be up soon on the website but if you are interested, send me a note at for more information.

News from Messy Church Canada Ideas and Resources for your Messy Church

Barbara Patterson, Regional Coordinator for Toronto sends a great link to gross motor skill activities and games from the What Moms Love website that are easily adaptable to a theme you might choose for your Messy Church gathering. Pictured below left is an obstacle course, and below right the Tape Shape Game where participants act out a mode of travel to a taped shape (i.e. creation story, how different animals move – walk like a crab to the triangle or slither like a snake to the diamond and so on). You will find 87 active indoor games at the link.

From What Mom's Love website

Lent and Easter Resources

Some great Lent and Easter ideas and resources from Kids Friendly (Presbyterian) in New Zealand – I especially liked the Lenten Calendar for families!• Lent Calendar for FamiliesMore ‘Kids Friendly’ Lent and Easter Resources

Messy Church Pinterest Boards for Lent and Easter from Cathy Garbutt and from BRF in the UK as well as from Lacey at 'Catholic Icing'

Lent Resources sent from Chris Barnett in Australia:  Lent from Flame Creative, Lent from Going4Growth

See also Jane Butcher's 'Faith in Homes' website in UK. 

Messy Lenten Blessings! 

Ashes, Hearts and the Messy Wilderness: A Lenten Reflection

February 14, 2018  by Roberta J. Egli

On this Ash Wednesday, which happens to fall Valentine’s Day, I am sitting alone at my temporary desk warmed by the fire as I watch the snow lightly fall outside. In a few hours, I will travel back over the cascade mountains to my home in Eugene to celebrate this day of love with my husband and also have ashes placed on my head by my pastor. However, this morning I am reminded by the ashes in the fireplace that for the first time in 12 years, I will not be placing ashes on the foreheads of parishioners in my role as pastor of a local church. In July 2017, I left my role as pastor to take on the volunteer role of Messy Church USA Team Leader.

I am grateful for all that I have learned over these past six months and especially for all the wonderful people I have met either through either a zoom teleconference or in person at the Getting Messy in the USA conference last October in California or in Starting a Messy Church training from Washington to Colorado.

As I think of this Messy journey these past six months on this first day of Lent, I am reminded of how the wilderness journeys were a vital identity forming experience for both the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the desert after crossing the Red Sea and the 40 days of solitude that Jesus embarked on prior to beginning his public ministry.

Over the past six months, as an organization and as Messy Church USA Network, we have wandered in the wilderness a bit. I do not think we will spend 40 years here but I have realized that wandering is part of our messy journey. As a board, we made plans for our launch, implemented our plan and then realized quite quickly that we needed to adapt our plans. We have great web developers who have worked hard to set up a beautiful website but we are changing and growing and needing to make adaptions.

Cross at Nativity Lutheran Church Labyrinth, Bend, Oregon 

I know that leading a local Messy Church can also be a time of wilderness. I have heard about plans made for a meal for 80 people and 160 people show up requiring a run to the store for more spaghetti sauce. I have also heard about planning for 50 people and only 20 show up. I have experienced it myself as a Messy Church leader. I have learned that the lower number at Messy Church led to some deep conversations and relationship building.

I encourage you to embrace the wilderness in your Messy Church journeys. The Israelites depended upon a fire and a cloud to lead them through the wilderness. Jesus drew upon scripture and his identify as God’s beloved son in the wilderness. In our messy journey of growing as an organization and a Network of Messy Churches in the USA, we rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of Messy Church BRF and the experience of Messy Church Canada, prayer, listening to one another in our leadership team meetings and also listening closely to you.

I am also learning that I need to trust the wandering in the wilderness and that wisdom comes from waiting on the Spirit. We are forming our identity as Messy Church USA and it is not a linear process. As a Board of Directors, six of us will be in the same room together this weekend for the very first time. Please pray for us as we make plans while trusting that the Spirit is with us in the wandering and in the journey itself. May you all have a blessed and messy Lent, awake to the leading of the Spirit in your life and in the life of your Messy Church.

Blessings on your Messy Journey, 

Roberta J. Egli

Messy Easter…Telling the Story (Again)

by Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North & South Carolina

Every year for Messy Easter, we see a surge in attendance. I don’t know whether it’s the season, parents looking for more Easter egg hunts, or what. All I know is that when we plan for Messy Easter, we plan for a crowd!

There are so many activities and possibilities for Messy Easter but after a few Messy Easters, it can feel as if we’ve done every activity out there. Where most Messy Church stories or themes are different each month, we’ve done Messy Easter before and will do it again every year. So how can we keep Messy Easter feeling fresh, even as we get set to tell this oh-so-essential story? Here are three ideas from our experience with Messy Easter over the past five years.

  1. Pick a theme. I know, I know, Easter is the theme. But one year Messy Easter could, for example, focus on Easter eggs (an Egg-stravaganza!). Pick your activities and crafts with that in mind. Dye Easter eggs, do an egg roll. In your celebration time, use Resurrection eggs to tell the Easter story. If you do an Easter egg hunt as part of your Messy Easter like we do, you can hide Resurrection eggs as a part of the hunt. Number the outside of the egg and as you tell the Easter story, call on the child who found that number egg to open it for everyone to see.
  2. Pick a story within the story. The passion story is your key story for Messy Easter, but what other characters can you use to tell that story? Last year for our Messy Easter, we used the legend of the donkey’s cross. We told the Easter story through the eyes of Esther, our donkey. We made donkey masks and had donkey snacks. Every family took home an illustrated set of story cards telling about Esther, the donkey, and how she encountered Jesus on Palm Sunday, in the Upper Room, at the cross, and at the empty tomb.
  3. Consider your layout. Do you usually scatter your activities around the room? For Easter, try arranging your activities in a new way. A simplified Stations of the Cross could work well here with different activities for each station of the cross. There are plenty of online resources for kid-friendly stations that would be helpful.
Esther the Donkey at Aldersgate UMC  Messy Easter 2017
Greensville, South Carolina

This year, our Messy Church team is planning for a Candyland theme. We’ll use activities that involve jelly beans and chocolate bunnies – things kids usually see in the stores this time of year. We’ll also set our activities up using the game Candyland as a model.

The focus at Messy Easter will always be the Easter story. But every year our team tries to consider how we can tell this story in a way that people hear it again for the first time.

Blessings, from Johannah Myers and Messy Church @ Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC.

Life… and Messy Church USA…is full of changes!

by Roberta J.Egli 

January 26,2018

My dear Messy Friends,

Our primary goal for creating Messy Church USA is to develop a network in which local and geographically isolated Messy Churches can more easily get connected.  The Network will help local Messy Churches to learn from each other and provide support when that great idea fell flat! 

I announced the network via a newsletter on January 5th and the plan for membership on January 16th. Since that communication, we received important feedback that using the terms of membership was not inclusive to all sizes of Messy Church. THANK YOU for sharing with us your concerns! Today, I am announcing that the board met via teleconference earlier this week and made the first of what will probably be several adaptive changes!

Drum Roll for announcement please…

…we have added a free registration level to the Messy Church USA network.  Our goal is to make sure that EVERY active Messy Church within the USA will  join the network and be easily found on the upcoming Messy Church USA website directory.  We will have a three tier Network. 

Messy Church USA Network

1) Network Registration                               Free yearly

            2) Network Supporter                                  $  50 yearly

3) Network Sustainer                                  $ 200 yearly

Website to be updated soon. Be on the lookout for these updates  on the website. Our web designers are working diligently with all of these changes that we keep throwing at them! The USA directory should also be operative soon on the website so that you can find your Messy Church as well as other Messy Churches close in proximity!

Thanks again for all of your feedback.  Keep chatting with us and giving us your ideas!

Roberta J. Egli

Messy Church USA Team Leader

Merry Messy Christmas from Messy Church USA!

Written by Roberta J. Egli

Our website is now online! After months – it felt like years at times- the Messy Church USA website is ready for you to check out at  A Christmas miracle and a gift to you! A big thanks to Bet Hannon and the developers at Affordable Church Website Program who spent hours working with the Messy Church USA board to create the site.

The six month process of creating content, revising, editing, revising again has been both a big blessing and a challenge! The work has reminded me that reality does not always meet my unrealistic expectations and that creating, developing and creating a large project is a messy process. I also know that this is just the beginning of keeping the website dynamic and up to date. These quotes are a good reminder for me as we launch the website and also celebrate the miracle of Christmas.

“Beginnings are always messy” ~ John Galsworthy

“Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair” ~ Dorothy Day

“People are messy; therefore, relationships will be messy.
Don’t be surprised by messiness.” ~ Timothy Keller

Establishing a non-profit, signing a licensed agreement with Bible Reading Fellowship, planning and hosting a Messy Church USA national conference and getting a website developed has been messy work these past six months. Something that we learned from one project affected the other projects. A question from the web developer caused a change in our business plan. It has been a glorious mess!

Relaxing after the Getting Messy in USA conference at Pastor Ginny’s home. In Laguna Beach, CA.

Back Row: Roberta and Lynn Egli, Leyla Wagner, Ginny Wheeler, Lindsey Goodyear, Marty Drake

Front Row:  Lucy Moore, Martyn Payne and Stephen Fischbacher

I am reminded that things did not go as planned for Mary and Joseph in the beginning of Jesus life on earth. Rather than a comfortable home, the biblical story has Jesus born in the mess of a stable. The smell of the barnyard accompanied the birth of Jesus rather than the smell of a wonderful home cooked meal.

Where are you experiencing the coming of the incarnate in the mess of new beginnings in your life and ministry?

I have heard from a number of you who have started Messy Churches recently and have had frustrations with either not enough people or more people than expected. Starting something new is messy. We make plans and then are surprised by reality.

I have heard from others who are more experienced in all things Messy Church. Over the years, you have learned to go with the flow and trust the unexpected. The hope of creating Messy Church USA is that we can all learn from one another as we network and share our experiences.

In closing, I would like to share a poem by the John O’Donahue that has become a mantra for me as I have let go of my need to ‘know’ and control life and have begun the process of trusting life.

“I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.”
(John O Donahue)

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to a surprising, messy, unfolding 2018!

Rock Painted Nativity from Aldersgate UMC, Aldersgate, South Carolina

Workshops, Tacos, Messy Experience and Bonfires

Written by Roberta J. Egli

Workshops, conversations at the table, bookstore and Bonfires are the focus of this final “Getting Messy in the USA” conference wrap up. In our full schedule, there was an opportunity to sign up for two workshops and according to the post-conference survey; more time in workshops would have been appreciated. Participants wrote: “Wish there had been time to attend more of the workshops”, “Longer so I could have done three workshops instead of two”, and “More time”. Perhaps at a future conference, we will need to extend our time to two full days instead of an evening plus one day.

The full list of Workshops included: Messy Hospitality, Messy Togetherness, Messy Music, Messy Meals, Messy Celebration, Messy Creativity, Growing a Messy Team, Taking Messy Church Home, Best Practices to start a Messy Church. Notice a messy Theme?

Many people valued the break times in the courtyard to gather and start or continue messy conversations with new friends. Sitting around a table in the sun, munching on fruit and various trail mixes was a great opportunity to hear how God is alive and moving through Messy Church. In addition to the courtyard, the bookstore was busy during the break times. We quickly sold out of the books that had been purchased through BRF and the CD’s from Fischy Music. Having the resources available though was an important aspect of the conference for many participants.

A big thanks to Marty Drake and Leyla Wagner for arranging for all volunteers who helped to serve such great food. The taco grill on Friday night was especially yummy and gave us all an idea of what life is like in southern California!

Speaking about life in southern California– many people from the conference stayed for a bonfire on beach on Saturday evening. When we arrived a bit late laughter, music, and conversation could be heard around the large bonfire. Making a s’more was so easy since it was all organized into packets with two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate. Martyn Payne had his first s’more and pronounced it good!

So what is next? The Messy Church USA board is in discussion regarding when and where to hold a ‘second’ Messy Church USA conference. Possibilities include a USA conference every two years with regional events in the years between. The International Messy Church conference will be in England in May of 2019.

Here are ideas from the survey of future topics for workshops/ conference. What do you think? 

Potential Topics:

  • How to bring Messy churchgoers into regular church. How to encourage more donations/volunteering.
  • How to advertise and promote.
  • Large vs Small church formats, workshops for long-term MC vs beginning.
  • Running a Bi-lingual Messy Church
  • Maybe a panel Q & A with people who have done it a year or more
  • Maybe common pitfalls, or learning from our mistakes
  • Ideas for seasonal Messy Churches — Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc. Also, it would have been great to attend 3 workshops, if that would work with the schedule.
  • How to help other churches start there MC

Getting Messy in the USA Wrap-up # 1

Written by Roberta J. Egli

Over 90 people gathered in sunny California for the Getting Messy in the USA conference on October 20-22. We came from nine different states and two continents to connect, discover and expand our network of messy friends and colleagues. We experienced extravagant hospitality from many volunteers from Community UMC in Huntington Beach as we gathered in their beautiful courtyard enjoying snacks and meals on the new furniture that was bedecked with twinkle lights in the evening. Read further for some highlights on the general sessions, pictures and post-conference survey quotes.

General Sessions

Lucy Moore, Martyn Payne and Stephen Fischbacher gave three energetic presentations for all those gathered. On Friday night we explored some basics of Messy Church including the five foundational values and the usual flow of each Messy Church. The parable of the seeds was the foundational story and I know that I will never hear that story again without hearing Lucy sing the parable in rhyme to the tune of ‘Old MacDonald’.

We started Saturday morning focusing on one of values of Messy Church: Messy Hospitality. How do we practice hospitality in our Messy Churches at the welcome table or the activity table or the games or the celebration time or the meal?  In addition to the story of Mary and Martha a quote from Henri Nouwen shaped our focus: “Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place.” (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out) As we engage in Messy hospitality our primary task is to create an empty space for people to engage with the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Our final general session on Saturday afternoon was dedicated to Messy Discipleship. In exploring the story of the Jesus instructing the fisher disciples to put out into deep water for a catch, Lucy also challenged us to consider that both shallow and deep experiences are needed in the journey of discipleship. Lucy and Martyn eft us with a challenge to be with each other on the discipleship journey: “Messy Discipleship is about us, the team. If it isn’t church for us too, we’ll always be doing church ‘at’ or ‘for’ others- it will remain an event.”

Each general session was highlighted with the music of Stephen Fischbacher who got all ninety people up out of their seats and moving! The music, the stories and the lecture all flowed together in a powerful way. Prior to the conference, Stephen collaborated with Lucy and Martyn to write a short new song that we used in our closing prayer and commitment at the end of each of the general sessions.

Click here for some Messy Church songs.

 If you would like a pdf copy( minus pictures) of the PPT presentations for the general sessions, send me an email.

  •  “Loved the way the general sessions role-played how to do Messy Church locally”
  • “ Lucy is a highly gifted storyteller”
  • “Excellent input!
  • “We need more time for each session”
  • “Amazing! The music really made the flow of conference fun”
  • “Enjoyed (Stephen) very much! Music is our MC’s weakest link- so appreciated the music so much ( and the gift of the link to Fischy Music).

A big thank you to Fischy Music for offering a one-year subscription to all their music to all of the churches who came to the conference for a reduced fee to Messy Church USA.

Planes, Trains and Dayquil Stupor… Off to Canada

Written by Roberta J. Egli

The alarm clock rings early for a 5:15 am flight to Toronto Canada via Denver, CO. As I head to the airport, I wonder how Lucy Moore and Martyn Payne survive two overnight red-eye flights within a several day period, first from London to LA and then LA to Toronto.  I have a new appreciation for their perseverance for spreading the great news of Messy Church!

I am off to Toronto for the “Meeting Jesus in Messy Church: Loving Jesus, Making Jesus Known, Living Like Jesus” Messy Church Canadian conference.  I am looking forward to re-connecting with Andy and Sue Kalbfleisch, the Messy Church Country representatives whom I met in England in 2016.  In addition to Andy and Sue, I will be re-connecting with a number of the 17 Messy Church regional coordinators from Canada that I also met in England.  What will the similarities as well as differences be between Messy Church Canada and Messy Church USA?

Toronto is a beautiful city and the fall colors are brilliant on the Wycliff College Campus which is the sponsoring organization for Messy Church Canada. What a wonder it is to gather with 250 people from all over Canada and to learn that there are five additional people from the states who traveled to the conference. What a blessing to be here even though I am in a Dayquil stupor from the upper respiratory cold that I have picked up.

What would Messy Church be without being centered in the news of Jesus Christ?  That is a question that Lucy and Martyn ask in their first presentation in Canada.  There are elements that would continue– the crafts and activities, the food, the fun, the all-ages together bonding more closely together with each other and others- but Messy Church is about introducing Jesus the Christ to and without that value, Messy Church would simply be another club. Their presentation leads me to ask myself more questions:

  • How does our local messy church introduce people to the good news of Jesus the Christ?
  • How do we practice in the way of Jesus?
  • How do as leaders and practitioners share with each other how knowing Jesus has made a difference in our lives?
  • Is it more important to share in word or practice about living the way of Jesus?
  • With so many interpretations of what it means to be a ‘Christian’ in our culture, how does Messy Church offer an alternative understanding?

I don’t have a specific answer to these questions and I think there is more than one answer, however, I am grateful for Lucy and Martyn and the leadership of the Canadian conference to raise these questions.  Being Christ Centered is one of the five foundational values of Messy Church so I look forward to finding out how you focus on Christ in your Messy Church?  Is there a specific ritual, prayer, or conversation that you have had at Messy Church that you could share with others? I look forward to hearing from you. Respond to this post or send me an email.

Messy Church Canada has made the presentations of Lucy and Martyn available on their website so if you want to learn more here are the links– Thank you Messy Church Canada for a great conference!




Loving Jesus:


Living Like Jesus: Discipleship:


Making Jesus Known:

Singing Peace on the Laguna Beach Boardwalk

By Roberta J. Egli

After two wonderful Sunday worship services with the Community UMC Church, the Getting Messy in the USA conference concluded. All the planning team and presenters were invited to the Rev. Ginny Wheeler’s home after worship for a wonderful lasagna feast. Thanks Ginny!

Rather than falling into a pasta stupor with a nap on the couch, we all headed off for a very warm walk ( It was about 90 degrees that day) along the boardwalk of Laguna Beach. As we looked over the beautiful Pacific Ocean, Stephen broke out in song… May you find peace, may you find hope, may you find joy this day! So, of course, we had to all break into song and much to our surprise, others walking by us joined in! Music does bring us all together!

Fischy Music provided music at the international Messy Church conference and as we planned for the conference in California we wanted to offer great music that was fun, for all ages and theological sound. We were so fortunate that Stephen was available and agreed to come all the way from Scotland to gift us with his music. The churches that attended the conference received a one-year subscription to Stephen’s “Songs for Life”. You can check out his website to learn more about that subscription and other ways to get Stephen’s music if you were not able to attend the conference. Messy Church USA hopes to have further collaboration with Stephen so stay tuned.

A huge thank you to Lucy, Martyn and Stephen for their storytelling, enthusiasm, wisdom, and general awesomeness!

So what now? The Messy Church USA board will review our evaluations and decide about future conferences— the when, where and how. The next International Conference is planned for England in the spring of 2019.

Thanks to all who came to the conference. Here are few statements from the evaluative survey:

All positive remarks. I think having a conference next year- while excitement is growing and its new would be good. After that- maybe every other year.”

“It was so important to get together with others as we develop how Messy Church will work most effectively in the US.”

“It gave me hope that we are on the right track. We may be a ‘weed” but hopefully our church will allow us to bloom.”

“The hospitality offered by CUMC was outstanding! Meals were all delicious and serving people went quickly…Thanks again”

“It was a wonderful experience from start to finish. Being able to have conversations with people who have been doing Messy Church, are starting up , and everywhere in between. Everyone was so approachable and giving of their time and information! I am looking forward to networking and moving forward with Messy Church USA!”