Leyla Wagner, Huntington Beach, CA
Messy Church (MC) USA Board of Directors’ Secretary, MC USA Co-Regional Coordinator of California, Community UMC Messy Church Leader and MC USA Trainer
In a recent Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator (RC) meeting we discussed the impact of “social distancing” with our Messy Church friends. We acknowledged that we were all feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. We missed being with our Messy families! We wanted to connect and were grateful for all of the online Messy@home activities. However, we were also concerned about overwhelming others just as we were feeling overwhelmed. In our quest to be helpful and reach out with Messy Church friends, were we exhausting one another rather than connecting with one another?
I’m a Pre-k teacher at our church preschool as well as a leader for our Messy Church. Prior to our RC meeting, I watched a video by Sally Haughey, the founder of Fairy Dust Teaching. In the class, she talked about the importance of connecting with children and their families from our classes while our schools were closed. Haughey’s teaching is helpful as we prioritize our connections with our Messy Church friends and families.
Sally began by asking the question we’ve all been struggling with over the past few weeks…
- What do families need in this time of uncertainty, when everything is new and many are faced with some level of economic instability?
The simple answer is connection. Sally shared that all humans have two basic needs during a time of crises. First, we want to feel safe, and second, we want to be seen, heard and valued – even in the middle of the mess.
Our messy Church families need connection! In our monthly Messy Churches, we provide a safe space where our needs are recognized and embraced as we build relationships in our faith community. Relationships (with each other and with GOD) are the heart of Messy Church. Because of these relationships, our Messy Churches have become an important, not to be missed, monthly worship for many of our attenders.
So how can we, as Messy Church Leaders, help our Messy friends and families feel safe right now and also seen, heard and valued when we aren’t meeting? Sally suggests that people feel secure in these basic needs when their normal life rhythms are consistently maintained. Messy Church is a part of the normal monthly rhythm for those that attend and with the cancellations; it is another way their normal rhythms have been disrupted. Our Messy Friends and Families need consistent personal connection with us to maintain some normalcy.
Making personal connections help our Messy friends and families feel seen, heard and valued. People who come to your Messy Church are connected to YOU. Our Messy Church has made a point to call or Face Time with each of our Messy friends. We’ve split our list between Planning Team Leaders and our Table hosts. Just as when we are sitting at craft tables or sharing a meal with our families at Messy Church, a personal call is a good opportunity to listen and find out how our Messy Friends are doing, where they are struggling and/or where they are experiencing joys. Because relationships are two sided, it gives us the opportunity to share our joys and concerns and where we’ve seen God at work lately possibly deepening the connection we’ve already established at Messy Church.
The main point to convey to our Messy Friends during this time of uncertainty is that they matter to us and just like God, we are there for them. How can we share our hearts and God’s love at this time?Leyla Wagner
Another important point Sally made is that it isn’t the quantity of activities but the QUALITY of engagement that matters. This is the same advice many of us have given at Messy Church training when asked “How can we do “more” in our Messy Church?”
There are many great online resources that have been created that we want to share with our Messy friends, yet we do not need to pass on or implement every great idea! We are doing enough. The main point to convey to our Messy Friends during this time of uncertainty is that they matter to us and just like God, we are there for them. How can we share our hearts and God’s love at this time?
Tips on ways to make a personal connection from the heart:
- Call or Face Time with your messy friends and families.
- Send a note to families
- Use the phone to connect
- Create a short (one minute or less) video of your Messy Team that you can text or email. Let your Messy friends know that you are thinking about them, praying for them, and that you miss seeing them.
- Remind them of the lessons we teach at each of our Messy Church geographical locations: 1) God is with us all the time (even in the middle of a messy pandemic), 2) God loves all of us, 3) God gives us strength and 4) God can do amazing things.
There is NO limit to how creative you can be in sharing God’s unconditional love. The point is that these personal messages will connect in a real way, that links to online resources and messages from strangers giving the same messages, will not.
Even in the midst of physical distancing, instead of incessant ‘doing’, our mission is to share God’s love from our heart through a personal connection.
In peace, Leyla