Congratulations to Thousand Oaks UMC!
From the start of their Messy Church in 2015, Thousand Oaks UMC has been breaking barriers. To be welcoming to their Spanish speaking neighbors, they used “Fiesta Church” to describe their Messy Church since in Spanish, the word ‘messy’ has some negative connotations. However, as they continued to reach out to their multicultural neighbors, they changed their signage back to Messy Church several years ago to be more welcoming. Life is Messy at times and the good people of Thousand Oaks UMC have leaned into the messiness and have adapted their Messy Church over the years.
Dori Fotsch, one of the passionate leaders at Thousand Oaks UMC is our Bilingual Messy Church Ambassador. She would be quick to say that she is one of a great team of leaders at Thousand Oaks but she is the person you can reach at [email protected] to learn from their experience of hosting a duo language Messy Church. To get a taste of their Messy Church, check out this Lord’s Prayer video produced by a teen member.
Messy Folk answers to “What do you like best about Messy Church?”
- Isabella/Teen: I love the crafts the best, plus the food!
- Pearl/Melissa: Kindergartener & Mom: Pearl likes all of the activities and the welcome song. Melissa likes Messy Church because it makes the Bible lessons so fun and interactive, and we get to share and grow spiritually with diverse members of our community.
- Barbara/Wise Elder: It’s wonderful to reach out to the community and it’s a great way to do that. I think the activities are adorable as can be. It is so important to bring groups together, especially people that speak another language. I like that it brings in others from our community.
- Nilvia/Mom of two elementary aged children: I like Messy Church because I need God.
- Graciela/Mom of a middle schooler, grade schooler, and pre-k: I like Messy Church because my whole family likes everything that it offers. It helps our family and we thank God for it.
Favorite Messy Activities at Thousand Oaks
Mother’s Day Spa
We made a kind of “hut” enclosed by fake plants. Soft music playing, cool drinks served, neck massage, nail painting, fans, etc. We had the kids and dads make gifts while moms were in the spa.
Community Firefighters Come to Messy Church!
The Firefighters came and helped us with a Summer Baptism theme by spraying us with water. Later, during another Messy Church, we wanted to thank them for their service, so we made a huge banner with a fire hose, handprints, names written on the hose, and invited them to have dinner with us! (They got a call and had to leave, but came back!)
Any Edible Craft!
Our teens love to help us plan the edible crafts which are ALWAYS a hit with all ages. (usually sugar is involved)
What worked well for you as you started your Messy Church?
We have had 3 Pastors since we began Messy Church. The Pastor’s verbal support is crucial in getting support from the Sunday Church, even though it is a highly lay driven ministry for us. It is also important that our Pastor comes to Messy Church and engages with the participants.
Share a Challenge you have experienced with Messy Church and strategies you have used to meet the challenge.
When we began Messy Church, we viewed it as a ministry that we could easily reach out and invite our neighbors to worship, many of whom speak Spanish. We wanted Messy Church to be a way to share hospitality and the love of Christ across cultures. We actually called Messy Church = Fiesta Church, to begin. (We were sensitive to the fact that “Messy” in Spanish does not have a good translation) After the first two years we realized that Fiesta Church was drawing predominantly Spanish speakers. As we listened to the needs of our community, we realized that most people thought Fiesta Church was only for Spanish speakers. While we love our Spanish speaking neighbors, we knew there was a need to bridge between cultures. So we changed the name back to it’s original name = Messy Church. We were hoping by changing the name it would 1) more invitational to both English and Spanish speakers, and 2) not lose momentum with our Spanish speakers. Some leaders were afraid to change the name, but it turned out to be a good decision.
How has your Messy Church adapted during the pandemic?
We make activity bags and deliver them to families. We make a video of the celebration, plus have a zoom gathering after the Celebration is shared. Delivering bags is a favorite part as we can spend a bit of time chatting….from a distance!
Thanks for Sharing your story!
Thank you for sharing your Messy Church story! It is inspiring to hear how your Messy Church has adapted through multiple pastoral changes as well as the changes in your neighborhood. We look forward to hearing more from the wonderful messy folk of Thousand Oaks United Methodist!
Website for Thousand Oaks:http://www.umcto.org/
Facebook for Thousand Oaks: https://www.facebook.com/umcthousandoaks/
Mailing Address: UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF THOUSAND OAKS
1000 East Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360