Congratulations to Northfield Community
We are traveling to the Chicago area to celebrate our May Messy Church of the Month. Ronda Bower, Pastoral Associate for Family and Educational Ministries at Northfield Community Church (NCC), was introduced to Messy Church at a workshop held by the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ in the spring of 2015. NCC held its first Messy Church September 2016. At the request of families, NCC’s Messy Church started with a focus each month of a community service project as part of Messy Church. The community service idea expanded into Messy Missions separate from Messy Church allowing Messy Church families and NCC congregation to join together to use their hearts and hands to share God’s love and kindness.
Messy Folk Answer “What do you like best about Messy Church?”
- “It allows everyone to learn about God and have fun regardless of how old you are.”
- “We get to meet many people – new and old – adult and youth!”
- “Our family loves the activities, and we love that our children are learning about our faith and how to help other people.”
- “It teaches us lessons and Bible stories in a fun and understandable way.”
- “We get to spend time with our church family!”
- “I love being able to view the stories from the Bible in many different ways— through games, craft activities, and food creations.”
- “I like the community of Messy Church the best, the feeling of everyone together, and seeing faces you don’t normally see is something really special.”
- “My kids always enjoy the activities and interacting with other kids. I love it because it has taught them valuable lessons about how to be a good person and put others first, and also I love the sense of community that NCC provides to our family.”
- “I love the fellowship of a shared meal after the inspiring Messy Church activities. The enticing interactive activities are a powerful Christian experience.”
- “I like how different it is (reminds me of church Family Camps as a kid), and the fellowship with other families.”
- “What I like best about Messy Church is that the kids own it. It is theirs – even more than Sunday school. The children are able to be part of the story, to choose their own activities and, usually, to direct their parents. It is as though the adult volunteers are the guests of the young participants. It promotes confidence and leadership and helps develop their ownership of their faith.
Favorite Messy Activities at Northfield Community Church
October Messy Church
For most Messy Church families, the October Messy Church when we incorporate Trunk or Treat is one of each year’s favorite Messy Church events. It is fun to have another time to wear costumes; an easy Messy Church to invite friends to, a great community draw, and a chance for many congregation members to participate with decorated car trunks and introduce them to Messy Church.
Some other favorites according to messy folk
- “I love to do the science experiments!”
- “My favorite part is making dinner and eating with everybody.”
- “My favorite is any of the food activities.”
- “It is really hard to pick just one. My kids love all the food related activities, but they also really enjoy building and creating different things that we can display in the house. One that stands out was creating a nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus out of little flower pots. My kids loved Baby Jesus! I also thought the sock snowman with I think it was rice inside, which was super adorable. We also love the in person silly activities that involve throwing things and running around.”
What worked well for you when you began your Messy Church?
One thing that helped, before beginning Messy Church, was taking months to introduce Messy Church to the congregation. The new Messy Church team took every opportunity as the congregation gathered in large or small groups to put out books and printed materials, play videos from the Messy Church website, had different people talk about it, and also put articles in every publication. That helped people understand what we wanted to start and share in our excitement. A major concern from congregation members was being able to get enough volunteers each month, but we moved forward in faith, and God has blessed us with so many people who want to volunteer and be a part of Messy Church. Not only has Messy Church been a way to connect with the community around us, but I feel it has connected our congregation in ways I never expected.
What challenges did you encounter with your Messy Church and how did you find solutions?
NCC has realized that Messy Church needs to be tweaked at times, which is a good thing because I feel it means that it is alive and growing. When we first began our Messy Church, we scheduled the celebration time after the meal. Many families left after the meal, missing our wonderful celebration time of bubbles, balloons, and creating worship masterpieces together, etc. We simply switched celebration and the meal so the meal is now at the end of the evening.
We found that the noise and activity at times is difficult for some children so we added a “Quiet Corner” in a place still visible, but out of the way of some of the busyness and noise. There are books and other calming materials for children who need a little quiet time. We also set up a “Little Friends” space with a small tent, floor pillows, and toddler toys and books for parents to hang out with their toddlers who might be too young to be interested in all the other activities.
Our most recent change in our Messy Church was the addition of Messy Missions. Since the beginning of NCC’s Messy Church, at the request of parents, one of our activities each month centers around a way to help others in our congregation or community. Opening up collections for these mission projects, like Easter basket fillers to put together Easter baskets for the food pantry, to NCC’s congregation is a way to connect to Messy Church even if they don’t participate. Before the pandemic, we began Messy Missions where Messy Church participants and NCC’s congregation can join together about every other month (on a different day then Messy Church) to go somewhere, like Feed My Starving Children, work on a project at church, like tying fleece blankets for Project Linus, or finish the projects started at Messy Church.
How has your Messy Church adapted during the Pandemic?
NCC started with prerecorded Messy Church and Messy Church in a bag delivered to homes, but then moved to Zoom with home deliveries of the needed materials for the activities. We experimented with chat room use and found that families could move from one chat room to the other to do activities they wanted like they moved table to table in our fellowship hall. We also worked on staying connected with Messy Church families and give some faith at home help with emailed family Sunday school lessons on the weekends, and Wednesday family faith activities emails. We look forward to June’s Messy Church in person outside in the parking lot!
Thank you Northfield Community and especially Ronda Bower for sharing your story!
Northfield, a suburb of northern Chicago is the planned site for the Messy Church USA national conference that has been postponed a second time to the fall of 2022. Ronda, in addition to her position at Northfield, is a Messy Church USA Board of Director, an Ambassador and on the Prayer and Encouragement Team. Thanks for all you do Ronda!!!
Northfield Community Church
400 Wagner Road, Northfield, IL 60093