Interview by Lindsey Goodyear (LG) with Leaders of Messy Church Zephyrhills, Florida
We were introduced to Amanda Hawk (AH) of First United Methodist Church in Zephyrhills and Rev Denise Lay(DL), of First Presbyterian Church in Zephyrhills in Part I. They came together with other churches in Zephyrhills, FL to begin Messy Church in December 2019. We learned how they came together as a team. How did they come together? Amanda Hawk stated in Part I,
It really was a God ordained process. At the same time I had discovered Messy Church, Denise was reading about it. We were both so excited about starting a Messy Church that we were sharing the information with anyone who would listen! The right person listened to us both and made the introductions. After we had lunch together, we instantly knew we wanted to do a joint venture. The differences in denominations didn’t matter because at the heart is God’s love and grace.
Read Part I of interview here. In this continuation of the interview, Lindsey Goodyear (LG) discovers how as a team, they have adapted to working together in a pandemic as well as some favorite things about Messy Church!
In our initial meeting, we made it clear where we all stood and made the decision, right up front, that the denominations would stay out of it. It would be focused on Christ-based events and was not a way for us to bait and switch people. This was church in and of itself so the decision was made up front.Rev. Denise Lay
Messy Church is Christ Centered
LG: There more than two denominations joined for this “Messy” venture, then?
DL: Yes! We started with First United Methodist, First Presbyterian Church, First Church of the Nazarene, and Awake Wesleyan Church. First United and First Presbyterian have been the lead, providing the majority of the funding, supplies, and volunteers. The other two are smaller congregations and participate to the extent they can. At the moment, like many churches, they lack the resources to be deeply involved. However, we still consider them to be partners and include them in all communication, activities, and more, allowing them to do as much or as little as they are able. This being said, we do hope to increase their future involvement.
AH: Before COVID, yes, we began with the four churches. At this time we are all at different places with reopening so the two of us have been keeping the online presence. Hopefully, once this is all over, we can reopen, in-person, and all four churches will participate together again.
LG: Were there kinks in the beginning with all of you? There definitely doesn’t seem to be denominational kinks.
DL: In our initial meeting, we made it clear where we all stood and made the decision, right up front, that the denominations would stay out of it. It would be focused on Christ-based events and was not a way for us to bait and switch people. This was church in and of itself so the decision was made up front.
AH: In fact, we even decided to meet at a neutral site and not at either of our campuses. We meet at the Woman’s Club in the heart of town.
What Makes Zephyrhills MC work?
LG: That’s brilliant. We all have our own process, but what do you think makes your particular Messy Church work?
AH: I think it’s how organized we are. And, by that, I don’t just mean having it all written out and having volunteers. Our Messy Church is held the first Sunday of every month and our Messy team meets on the following day (Monday) to start brainstorming the next event. We use a lot of the handouts that Joanna gave us so we know what crafts we will do, who will get the supplies, and who will do what to make it happen again the following first Sunday.
DL: The fact that we meet the day after Messy Church has shown to be a real smart move on our part. Not only is the event fresh in our minds, but, then we have a whole month to fulfill our given assignments.
LG: I agree, the earlier the planning starts, the smoother Messy Church will run. And, how many Messy Churches have you held so far?
DL: Not many because of COVID!
AH: We kicked off last year in December. We made it through March before we shut down for COVID. So, we’ve had four and we were just getting in our groove!
DL: And, what we have talked about is when it is time for us to meet again (in-person), we are going to push it like it’s brand new. We will do all the things we did when we first started, to gain people’s attention. However, the people who were coming haven’t forgot about us. They keep asking when Messy Church is coming back again.
Favorite Messy Church?
LG: Fantastic idea! I think Messy Church committees everywhere will be going back to the drawing board to think of new ways to reintroduce Messy Church. One of my favorite questions to ask is what has been your favorite Messy Church so far?
AH: Oh, that’s a hard one! The Christmas one was hard to beat. We had a lot of extra fun with it because our crafts were tied to the celebration time. All of the families had made costumes and got wear them to celebration. Plus, we had such a big turnout from people being curious about what Messy Church was, we had tons of children to participate in the nativity portion. Plus, the fact that it was Christmas…Not that the others weren’t great, but the first one, the excitement was just there.
DL: I liked that one a lot but we also did one called “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” It was great because our members took things home that they could then give to someone. We had done a couple that had focused on them, now we were focusing on what we could do for someone else.
Messy Church during COVID
LG: I have a soft spot for the Christmas gatherings every year. I know we’re all floundering during this time but what are you doing to keep Messy Church alive during COVID?
AH: During this unique time when we can’t meet in person, we have stayed in touch via our Messy Church Zephyrhills Facebook page. The first few months we posted Messy at home activities for families to enjoy. In July, we posted a joint VBS video (with all four churches) for three weeks. Each week, after the video, families picked up their VBS kits for use at home. Beginning November 1st, we are posting a “Mini Messy” online video to our page. This will include a mini celebration, directions for our craft, and prayer. Afterwards, families will be able to stop by the First Presbyterian Church to pick up the craft kits.
What have you learned?
LG: Fantastic ideas! Lastly, what have you learned from your journey with Messy Church?
DL: That it was everything we expected it to be! And, for me, it was exactly what I thought it would be.
AH: For me, it has opened my eyes to ministry in different ways. I’m the worship leader at our church, and I teach for a living as well, but it’s been interesting to start a “church” and really get to see, behind the scenes, how everything can come together for God’s glory. Also, seeing the different people He brings us each month. We have a few regulars but there are new people attending every month. It’s always exciting to see how they heard about us or who will show up. It’s been one of the biggest ways, at least that I’ve seen, God move puzzle pieces and work to bring things and people together to glorify Him. It’s been really cool!