Congratulations to Community United Methodist!
Marty Drake and Leyla Wagner met when their now adult children were in preschool. They have worked together in many different projects over the years before bringing their dynamic creativity to start Messy Church at Community United Methodist Church (UMC) in Huntington Beach, CA in December 2013. They are two of the five founding Board of Directors of Messy Church USA.
In the fall of 2017, Community UMC hosted the first national gathering of Messy Churches within the USA. The entire church came together to give extravagant hospitality to all who came to kick off the start of Messy Church USA. In addition to the great input by Lucy Moore and Martyn Payne from Messy Church UK/Bible Reading Fellowship, fun music with Stephen Fischbacher from Fischy Music, and informative workshops, we enjoyed our meals on the outdoor patio that had just been completed the weekend before the conference began.
Marty and Leyla have built a wonderful team that has led their Messy Church to innovate throughout the pandemic. We are so glad to share the story of Messy Church at Community UMC!
Messy Folk share what they like best about Messy Church
- Peyton (age 8): “I like that its messy and we get to do crafts!’ Mom: “I enjoy the time together as a family!” Dad: “I like that it helps kids experience the Word of God in a creative and engaging way!”
- We love having the opportunity to help our granddaughter learn about and grow in her faith as a child-centered community. (Grandparent)
- Messy Church is a time our whole family comes together. I like that my 7th grader still gets excited about Messy Church and has started leading some crafts. (Mom)
- “I like seeing friends and sometimes my teachers. I like when we make art projects and get to take them home.” – (age 6)
Favorite Messy Activities
Picnic Table Service Project
SERVICE PROJECT: We often have a service project as one of our activities. Messy Friends built a child’s size picnic table for our preschool. One of our parents who is a contractor shared his gifts, by designing, gathering the supplies and leading the project. It took three Messy Churches to complete this service project.
PIG SLOP: Sensory Play is another good activity that all ages seem to enjoy. For the Prodigal Son we created Pig Slop by making goop and then adding banana peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, etc… to it. Adults and childrens were able to experience the story through their senses.
SNACK CRAFTS: Any food related activities are a hit at our Messy Church. Sometimes they are an activity during creative time and we also do them as a dessert. For dessert, our Food Team makes individual kits with directions or a picture so Messy Friends can build or make it after dinner. Everyone creates their dessert together at the table and the dessert always relates to the theme.
Some Pictures from Community UMC Messy Church
What worked well to gain support of your “Sunday” church as you started Messy Church?
We spent a lot of time developing our team before we started our Messy Church. We spent time explaining Messy Church (history, stats, what it was and wasn’t) in short “infomercials” on Sunday morning in front of the congregation. We talked to key leaders and made sure our pastor was behind us so that Messy Church was considered when important decisions were being made.
What has been a challenge you have had at Messy Church?
One challenge we faced early on was having table hosts (those volunteers who led our activities at Messy Church) that didn’t understand the value of their role. When we realized this, we decided to host a luncheon to show our appreciation and we shared with them the values of Messy Church and let them know how important their roles were to this ministry. We now have table hosts who know their value and that engage, share their faith stories and practice hospitality regularly.
How has your Messy Church adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We very quickly decided that Messy Church must go on. In the early months of the shutdown, we met on Zoom. We sent out an email with a welcome video and activities with directions and things to think about as the activities were being done. At that point, we chose crafts that Messy Friends would already have supplies for at their home. We came together on Zoom to do the Celebration component of that Messy Church and Messy Friends shared what they had made at home.
Then we had a child tell us she liked Messy Church online, but it didn’t feel like real Messy Church because we weren’t doing the crafts together, we were just talking. So, we adapted again.
We began putting supply bags together with items needed for the activities and decided to honor the value of hospitality and deliver those supply bags to the porch of our Messy Friends. This way they had everything they needed to do the activities together with us on Zoom. At that point, we had a welcome time video, we did 2-4 activities together online and finished with singing and a celebration.
Now our only component missing was dinner, so we adapted again. Because we already knew who needed a supply bag through our reservation form, it was very easy to add a request for a pizza to be delivered, as well. We have met online for Messy Church every month since we’ve shut down and just like Messy Church in person…we’ve continued to adapt so that where we started looks nothing like where we are today.
Video of Table Host at Community UMC
Thanks for sharing your story!
Thank you for all the great ideas and pictures! Also a big thanks to Marty and Leyla for all that they do for Messy Church USA. Marty is our Board of Directors President and Leyla has served as the Board secretary since we began in 2017! They also have trained many Messy Churches and share the story of Messy Church far and wide. They also wrote curriculum sessions for the April 2021-March 2022 Get Messy! magazine produced by BRF in the UK. Marty is the Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries at Community UMC. Leyla teaches preschool at the Community UMC preschool and also works at the church in her leadership position of Messy Church.
Community United Methodist Church, 6652, Heil Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Phone #: 714-842-4461