A Blogpost from Leyla Wagner, Messy Church USA founding Board Member
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
One of the blessings of Messy Church is that it is adaptable.
After signing off of Zoom Messy Church, I am sitting down to write this Daily Blessing and am remembering that tonight marks one year since we moved Messy Church online. Everything closed down two days before our March 2020 Messy Church was supposed to happen. We cancelled that month after prepping and planning for 100 people that included a lot of activities and a meal. At that point Marty, my co-leader, and I knew we would need an alternative plan for the next couple of months…maybe even until the summer (haha)… to help stay connected with our Messy Friends. We worried about how we were going to take this hands-on ministry, whose foundation is based on relationships and connection, and make it work online.
One of the blessings of Messy Church is that it is adaptable. Even when we were meeting in person, we were always assessing and evolving. Messy Church in 2013 looked a lot different than Messy Church in 2019. It’s been no different for online Messy Church. Tonight, did not look like our online Messy Church a year ago. The first few months, we were learning and experimenting. We gave out supplies to do the activities at home and then met online for a celebration, or worship time. One of our young Messy Church friends commented early on that they liked Messy Church online but it didn’t feel like Messy Church because we weren’t doing activities together. So, we decided to try doing crafts online together, and it was a wonderful choice. That comment helped us stretch and eventually we made an intentional decision to work towards incorporating all the elements of Messy Church (welcome time, activity time, celebration time, and meal) and all the values (Pictured below clockwise: All-Ages, Celebration, Christ-centered, Creativity and Hospitality) into our online Messy Church.
The structure and values have helped make online Messy Church feel like in-person Messy Church but the real blessing of Messy Church, even online, is what it has always been…the connections, the relationships, the growing in faith together and, of course, the messiness. This past year, we’ve had people join us at online Messy Church that have never been to Messy Church or have only come a few times, and they are regular attendees now. We’ve had parents log on and join us because their kids were sleeping and they wanted to take notes so they could do the activities together with their kids later. We’ve had people offering ideas, asking to help in any way they can and we’ve even had parents and youth volunteering to lead activities. We’ve watched our food team shine hospitality by putting together and delivering craft bags and pizzas to the homes of the people joining us that night. Tonight, we heard friends, both young and old, checking in on each other and having conversations with friends they’ve only known at Messy Church online. In some ways, because we are doing each of the activities together, at the same time, our group has been able to connect and grow together even more online than we can in-person.
It feels as though God has been leading this exciting and messy journey. We often hear that Messy Church is a blessing to our Messy Friends, but it’s also been a blessing to all of us on our planning team, to those leading activities each month and definitely to me. Since day one, it has felt as if God is working in and through this ministry. Every time a challenge or obstacle has arisen a solution has closely followed. We only have to ask and pray and God along with our congregation and the encouragement from Messy Church USA show us where to go next. We’ve grown with each other through this year and while we couldn’t imagine Messy Church online last March, tonight it felt like the natural way to do it as we baked pretzels, made cactus’ out of playdough, and created a wilderness scene with reflection questions while exploring the season of Lent.
Dear loving and gracious, God. Today, we give thanks for the opportunity to do your work through the creative ministry of Messy Church. We ask that you continue to lead all of us in new directions and help us to remember that when we are faced with challenges, we can ask for your guidance and trust that you will be there to open doors and to lead us in the direction you would have us go. Amen
Leyla is a Preschool teacher at Community United Methodist (CUMC) Preschool, Leads Messy Church CUMC with Marty Drake since 2013. In addition Leyla is a founding member of Messy Church USA and currently serves as secretary of our Board of Directors. In addition, she volunteers her time to Messy Church USA as an Ambassador, Training Team and Writing team member. She also is a member of the Messy Church International Conference planning team scheduled for May 2022 in the UK. Thanks Leyla for all that you do for Messy Church locally, nationally and globally!