Congratulations to St Paul UCC
Messy Church made its way to Waterloo because of a presentation given by Lucy Moore at Faith Forward in Chicago (in spring 2016). Jillian Mayer had just started working as the Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation at St. Paul’s and was attending her very first conference. She reflects on the conference: I remember sitting and listening to Lucy’s presentation and thinking “This is just what we need at our church.” I went back home armed with a lot of information and a lot of enthusiasm.
After lots of research and so many meetings, St. Paul was ready to give Messy Church a go. They began the first week of Lent in 2017 with around 20 people in attendance. By the end of Lent they had over 100 people in attendance. This was largely due to families inviting other families. Jillian and the rest of the church staff were all in awe and knew that they were meeting a need in their church and local community.
They began monthly meetings with special Messy Church meetings for summer, advent, and Lent the following program year. Jill writes: “While we’ve had to adapt over the last 4+years, I still believe that we’re meeting a need for our community and really helping equip families to develop their faith together.” Messy Church USA is excited to share the story of St Paul’s Messy Church!
I remember sitting and listening to Lucy’s presentation and thinking ‘This is just what we need at our church.’ I went back home armed with a lot of information and a lot of enthusiasm.”Jillian Mayer, Director of Christian Education and Faith Formation, St Paul’s UCC in Waterloo, IL
Messy Folk answer the question: What do I like best about Messy Church?
- I like that Messy Church teaches parents how to talk to their kids about Jesus in a way that kids can relate to and understand. (Amanda, 30s)
- I like that anyone can come and I can see my friends. There’s always fun activities and the food is good. I like to build and play with stuff on the tables before we eat. (Thomas, 8)
- I like that Messy church and UCC is open to all! We have a different church family and we love coming to the messy church evenings. We call this our extended church family. (Annette, 40s)
- I love to see people of all ages participating in the activities and using all their senses to reinforce the story that is presented. (Renae, 60s)
Favorite Messy Church Activities
Creating I-Spy Bottles
We’ve done this one at multiple Messy Churches because it’s so easy to adapt to fit the story/theme of the Messy Church. For example, we’ve used them for Esther, advent, Lent, and most recently for learning about Jesus teaching at the temple as a child. All you really need are empty plastic bottles, funnels to fill the bottles, filler material (such as rice), and small items to be hidden in the filler that fit the story theme.
Sensory Bins with Water Beads (Orbeez)
We haven’t been able to do this one lately because of COVID-19 mitigation strategies (although we might create individual sensory stations in the future) but this is a big favorite for all ages. Even adults love the chance to experience the odd texture of the beads. We’ve been able to use water beads at our sensory station on multiple occasions as it is another activity that can easily be modified to fit the theme. For example, we added plastic whale/fish toys when we were learning about Jonah being followed by a big fish. (RJE here– if you are like me and were not aware of these little polymer balls, Learn more about Orbeez here)
We’re blessed with a large space for our Messy Church so we’ve taken advantage by creating obstacle courses at multiple Messy Churches. Originally, the courses were created ahead of time but early on we discovered just how much fun upper elementary Messy Churchers (as well as youth group members and adults) had when they were given the chance to create the course. One particularly memorable obstacle course was created at the Messy Church devoted to the story of Samuel hearing God’s voice in the night. On that night, the obstacle course was created using chairs, tape, and yarn. After the course was designed, participants were blindfolded and their partner had to talk them through the course.
What worked well for you in getting support of your ‘Sunday church’ when you started Messy Church?
One reason we were able to get support from the more traditional (“Sunday Church”) congregation when we first started Messy Church was it’s focus on intergenerationality. From our very first session, anyone that peeked into one of our Messy Church gatherings could see intergenerational bonds forming as people of all ages from different families worked, played, and learned together. We’ve also been very intentional, from the beginning, in sharing stories from Messy Church in Sunday Worship whether it’s through video or photos. This has created a sense of ownership of Messy Church for many congregants, many of whom do not actively participate. Indeed, an older church member has said one of the reasons she’s proud to be a St. Paul church member is because we offer Messy Church, a family-service for all ages, even though she’s never regularly attended Messy worship.
Share a challenge you’ve had with your Messy Church and strategies you used to meet the challenge.
|Like many involved with ministry one of our biggest struggles is competing with families who have active schedules. We’ve tried to meet this challenge (and continue to do so) in several different ways. Firstly, we remain consistent! We will have Messy Church whether there are 10, 20, 40, or 80 in attendance. In recognizing families’ busy schedules we also offer take home options (this was something we began during COVID-19 which received such positive feedback we’re continuing even though we’ve returned to in-person meetings). Finally, we’ve intentionally welcomed families to come as they are able. We encourage grandparents to bring grandchildren, aunts to bring their nieces/nephews, etc.|
How has your Messy Church adapted during the Covid-19 Pandemic?
COVID-19 has forced us to be flexible and keep it simple! We took Messy Church virtual when the pandemic first hit and have adapted as safety protocols have evolved. We’ve focused on providing simpler activities that really allow for creativity and connection to the month’s theme. We’ve met outside when possible and really tried our best to utilize all possible meeting spaces.
Thank you Jillian and all the people of St Paul Messy Church for sharing your story!
In addition to her work at St Paul, Jillian is a Messy Church USA ambassador and serves on our writing team. We recently released the Messy Olympics summer session that Jill put together for the writing team. Check it out here. She also presented her experience in restarting meeting in person for Messy Church at the May Messy Church USA Town hall. You can watch the full conversation here.
Contact Information for sT Paul United Church of Christ Messy Church
Church Address: St Paul United Church of Christ: 200 N Main St. Waterloo, IL
Church Website: http://stpaulonline.org/
Church Facebook: Facebook
Church YouTube: YouTube Channel
Let us know about your Messy Church and you might be the next Messy Church of the Month!
Contact Roberta at Roberta@messychurchusa.org