A blog post by Dr. Johannah Myers
Johannah is the Regional Coordinator for Messy Church USA in South and North Carolina. She has been leading Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville in SC for over five years. She will be facilitating the upcoming Getting Started in Messy Church in Mt Dora, FL on September 21.
Messy Church is all ages together. This is one of the core values of Messy Church, something we all ascribe to practice. But why? Why is having all ages together for play and worship so important?
Less than two weeks after the second International Messy Church Conference in England, another group of church leaders from across the US, Australia, and New Zealand gathered in Nashville, TN, for the Intergenerate Conference. The conference centered around the assumption that Church (whether Messy or traditional or anything in between) must take seriously the need for meaningful interactions across the generations.
Roberta and I had the chance to represent Messy Church USA at Intergenerate as an example of what this all-age approach to church looks like in practice. We got to share our Messy story during an afternoon workshop and even got to do a Messy Church “taste and see” for participants experience on a small scale what Messy Church looks like. (On a side note, try packing supplies for Messy Church in a carry-on bag! The TSA agents were quite confused when they searched my bag and found feathers, pony beads, yarn, hole punches, and rather large paper ears!!)
It was a whirlwind few days! Here are a few take-aways from Nashville.
There are a growing number of church leaders who are beginning to recognize that separating age groups out into age silos – children over here, young adults here, older adults over there, youth in their own building next door – isn’t necessarily translating into transformational disciple-making. We need our peer groups, certainly, but we need meaningful interactions with other generations in order for discipleship to grow.
While there’s a growing number of people who are realizing this intergenerational approach to church is needed, we’re still trying to figure out how to articulate the why and the how. The first Intergenerate Conference was held two years ago with around 100 people (I believe?!). This year it was maxed out, standing-room-only at 200+ participants. Word is spreading, the conversations are growing, the research is developing. It’s exciting! The under-current throughout the conference was of high energy, high passion. We KNOW that bringing generations together is critical, even if we’re still trying to articulate why.
While researchers are still figuring out the “why,” Messy Church has something important to offer as we figure out the “how” of intergenerational ministry. We have a model for how to be church together that is working, and based on the growing research, working well. Are we the only model of intergenerational church out there? Of course not! But our adaptability, our focus on hospitality, and our emphasis on hands-on exploration mean that Messy Church can be a solid foundation for churches wanting to tear down those age silos and bring communities together across the ages.
What’s next? I think we’re going to see Messy Churches continue to pop up across the US and so new opportunities for training events will be critical. Has your Messy Church team attended a training? Do you know of churches in your area who’d like to learn more about Messy Church? There are several one-day Messy Church training events already on the calendar. If you’d like to host a training event, contact your Regional Coordinator or Roberta today and let’s start the conversation!
Upcoming Training Events for Messy Church USA: