Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina
In 2013 we were in our first months of Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC. Looking for a way to spread the word about Messy Church and make some connections with our larger community, we stumbled across a Messy Church in Liverpool, England and their annual Sheep Trail. (You can read more about the original Sheep Trail in Messy Nativity.) In true “we-don’t-know-what-we’re-doing-but-let’s-try-anyway” form, the Sheep Trail in Greenville, SC began!
We have plenty of people who crochet, but the sheep pattern provided in Messy Nativity was for knitting. After searching pattern books and the Internet, I found a sewing pattern for a stuffed sheep. A desperate plea went out for people willing to sew some sheep and soon the herd in my office grew (and grew and grew). Meanwhile we wrote up a request for stores, outlining our plan for the Trail and started walking up and down Main Street, looking for stores willing to give us a try. Nine stores downtown said yes. Throw in a couple of trees at the Festival of Trees willing to be hiding places for our sheep and we had our first Sheep Trail.
Each participating store gets its very own sheep with a unique name. Many stores like to name their own sheep! The sheep is hidden in the store, keeping in mind that it’s mostly kids out hunting. The sheep’s nametag is clearly visible. We print Trail Cards (we also keep a printable version on our webpage) that includes a list of the participating stores and a place to record the sheep’s unique name. Find each sheep, record the name, and you’ve mastered the Sheep Trail! We put a basket at a couple of stores where people could turn in completed Trail Cards and be entered into a drawing for a prize at the end of the month. Our Trail runs throughout the month of December.
The first year, we invested in brochure holders. Our sheep were donated. We splurged a bit and had our Trail Cards professionally printed along with some signs marking participating stores. After the first year, the only real cost for us is printing the Trail Cards. With this minimal cost, we are able to reach hundreds of families. We go through anywhere between 300-400 brochures each year!
Our Trail Cards include information about our Messy Christmas, Aldersgate UMC’s Christmas Eve services and other worship opportunities. We also include the Christmas story, written in child-friendly language. We hope that everyone who participates in the Sheep Trail takes a moment to read the story and that the Trail gives families the opportunity to play together while remembering the true meaning of Christmas.
Messy Blessings, Johannah