Congratulations to First United Methodist in Michigan City, Indiana
We are excited for you to learn about our January 2022 Messy Church of the month. I know first hand that this church knows how to do hospitality! Back in the summer of 2019, I led one of the in-person Get Started in Messy Church trainings hosted by First UMC. They gave such a warm welcome to all the churches who came to participate and their pastor, Rev. Nancy Nichols, hosted me in the parsonage over the weekend. Trish Johnsen, the leader for Messy Church at First UMC organized the training that weekend and brought a large team that became excited. Trish is now a Messy Church USA trainer and ambassador. Thanks Trish, Rev. Nancy and all the dynamic people of First UMC!
How did you hear about Messy Church?
Our Pastor, Rev. Nancy Nichols, was the first one to mention Messy Church to Trish and she had never never heard of it! She was very skeptical of the concept at first, so did a good deal of research before deciding to host a “Get Started with Messy Church” training day here at our church. Our team was so excited and inspired at the end of that training that we took off quickly from there.
Why did you decide to offer a Messy Church in your community?
We had a great deal of support for the “all-ages” concept, and a general agreement that we needed something different to offer our neighbors. We are an aging congregation in a financially depressed downtown, surrounded by neighbors who weren’t coming in our doors on Sunday mornings. We decided to take church to them. In the nice weather months, our Messy Church meets outside in our parking lot during our city’s downtown “Arts Walk”. The plan we already had in place to meet outside became a real blessing during the pandemic!
When did you start your Messy Church?
We launched in February 2020, and were only able to meet for “real” Messy Church twice before the pandemic. We have done some form of Messy Church every month since!
Messy Folk share what they like most about Messy Church
- “Messy Church is perfect for us, Messy Church is OUR church.”
- “It’s so wonderful to know that you’re always here!” (because we meet outside and invite neighbors to join us.)
- “You’re always so friendly and make anyone feel welcome.”
- “I wish Messy Church was every week!” (an 8 year old)
Favorite Messy Activities at First UMC Messy Church
The Advent Christingle
The Advent Christingle – we love this one and it has been one of the most meaningful activities we have done. It was a special request to do it again this year, and we incorporated the lighting of it into our Messy Christmas Eve-Eve service. Instructions for Christingle Activity: Wrap an orange with a red ribbon (or tape) around the center. Use four toothpicks to attach “fruit” (we used fruit snacks) to the four sides of the orange. Add a candle to the top center (hint! look for the birthday candles with little bases that poke right into the orange!)
We created the labyrinth as an activity with the “New Beginnings” Messy Church we hosted in August, and it was so loved that we re-worked the prayer that accompanied it and used it again in September AND October (it’s still on our parking lot now in January).Instructions for Prayer Labyrinth: We created a large labyrinth on our parking lot. I was able to find a simple design online that I though I could easily copy. I used sidewalk chalk to draw it out before tracing over the design with A LOT of hot pink spray paint (the kind the hardware stores sell for marking utilities holds up really well!) Hint: take off your shoes and socks and roll up your pant legs!
Hope Luminary Bags
For Advent 2020, like many churches, our doors were closed for in-person worship to keep each other safe. Our Messy team created a take-home bag with activities that included four paper bags with instructions to spell out the word HOPE. We included battery operated candles. We met on Zoom and shared a devotional about Jesus bringing hope when we needed it most, and then encouraged everyone to share the photos of the luminaries on our social media platforms to spread the light of HOPE. It was probably the simplest of any our activities, but so profound.
What worked well as you started your Messy Church?
Our team had a difficult time answering this question because we don’t remember having any issues getting our ‘Sunday’ church to get on board. Since our church hosted the “Get Started with Messy Church” training and had number of people attend the training, their enthusiasm walking away from the training really helped get the “buy in” from the rest of the congregation. We spent about a year talking about Messy Church and sharing the vision before we launched, and I think that helped because by the time we started, everyone had some level of investment in it.
Share a challenge you have had with your Messy Church
We launched two months before an international pandemic, so we hadn’t had the chance to establish our congregation before shutting down. As a team, we made the decision to do SOMETHING every month, on the Friday we would typically host Messy Church. This way, we kept the vision and the name fresh and in front our community, with the hope that once we would meet again we wouldn’t be starting at zero. We have done take home bags, Zoomed, and met outside for music, worship, and activities whenever the weather would let us.
October Messy Church at First UMC
Thanks for sharing your Messy Church story
Thanks Trish and your team for letting us know how you have adapted to a pandemic at the very beginning of your Messy Church launch. God is doing a great thing in Michigan City and we are happy to share the good news.
Church Name and Address: First United Methodist Church of Michigan City
Church phone number and email: 219-872-7200 / [email protected]
Messy church contact: Trish Johnsen
Trish Johnsen is the Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries at First United Methodist Church (UMC) of Michigan City, IN and Youth Ministry Director at Portage First UMC. After hosting a large Messy Church training in August 2019, she has led a team to begin a Messy Church in Michigan City. In addition, she is a certified trainer with Messy Church USA and serves as a MC USA ambassador.