Highlights from Messy Church NOW Webinar

Archive for Johannah Myers

Highlights from Messy Church NOW Webinar

Logo Messy Church NOW

We had a great representation from all over the USA at the recent Messy Church NOW zoom webinar.  Messy Church leaders representing 25 churches from 16 different states and 5 denominations signed on to hear Jennifer May, Johannah Myers and Leyla Wagner share what they have learned in facilitating their Messy Church in a physically distanced world. 

Highlights from presentations

Jennifer used her teacher expertise to create a google slide show with recorded videos, activities and games that she emailed to her Messy Folk to use at home at their convenience. To keep the experience interactive, she provided a ‘would you rather’ game at the beginning that is the usual start to their in-person Messy Church. She vulnerably shared that it was difficult for her to get past her anxiety of seeing herself on a recording at the beginning which resonated with many of us on the zoom call. Taking risks and placing ourselves into new situations can be an uncomfortable experience. Jennifer leads Messy Church at Freysville Emmanuel United Church of Christ in rural Red Lyon, PA.

Leyla shared how their Messy Church has evolved as they have learned from each iteration of their Messy Church.  Their first COVID-19 Messy Church was a 15-minute zoom celebration worship that ended up lasting almost 45 minutes because people were so happy to see each other.  Since then, they have kept adapting their monthly on-line Messy Church. Their most recent Messy Church included an introduction video from their pastor emailed out one week prior, an activity bag that people came to the church parking lot to pick up, and a zoom community Messy Church that included doing activities together,  worship with favorite songs, and break out rooms to share reflections from questions. Leyla is from Community United Methodist in Huntington Beach, CA. favorite songs.

Johannah kept their first on-line zoom Messy Church short and simple.  The scripture story from Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu was read by Johannah after a time of welcome.  After the story, Johannah led everyone through making a hat of flaming tongues of fire out of a paper place, scissors and colored pencils and folding an origami dove from one piece of paper. Keeping the supply list simple was important.  To connect Messy Folk with Sunday morning worship, people were encouraged to drop off their origami doves at the church which were then placed in the worship space for the Sunday traditional recorded worship. Although the Messy Church zoom crowd was a bit smaller than their usual in-person Messy Church, those who participated ranged in age from toddler to over 70 years… a truly intergenerational experience!  Johannah is from Aldersgate United Methodist in Greenville, SC.

Some Messy Church NOW Ideas for you

Throughout the presentations and after, the chat room was busy with people sharing their own experiences of how they have continued to bring their Messy Church communities together over the past four months. Here are a few evaluation responses to the question, what are you key takeaways?  

  • We are all in the same boat. We try things and adjust accordingly. None of us has the “perfect” answer, we just keep working at it to reach people and have connection. 🙂
  • We had not considered recording our event so people who cannot attend live could come. What a great idea. As well as the ideas for how to share their crafts if they aren’t live with us.
  • Ideas, but most of all hope and strength – not in this aloneI

We are planning more webinars for the future so that we can continue to connect as we all experiment with ways to adapt our Messy Church during this weird time in history. Share your stories with us via Facebook or email roberta@messychurchusa.org.

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Messy Church is All-Age Together…Why?

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.

Dr. Johannah Myers building Intergenerational relationships at her Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC

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:

Messy Sheep Trail

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.

Sheep Trail with Aldersgate UMC
Greenville, South Carolina

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!

Sample of Brochures 

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.

For more information about our Sheep Trail or to get an example of teh brochure email me at johannah@messychurchusa.org.  Follow us on Instagram  and/ or follow us on Facebook.

Messy Blessings, Johannah

Johannah Myers

Prepare the Way!

By Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

Aldersgate UMC Messy Church Fall Festival 2018

The dust has settled from our Messy Church Fall Festival. Candy wrappers have been picked up and costumes stored away. In one way, we’re now free to turn our thoughts to gratitude and Thanksgiving. However, for those of us planning for Messy Church, it’s time to start planning for Advent and Messy Christmas.

Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare for the coming of our Messiah even as we remember and celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby at Christmas. As Messy Church leaders, we’re charged to prepare for Messy Christmas celebrations but we can also help our families make space to prepare a way for Jesus, even during their busy December.

Consider providing Advent calendars at your November Messy Church. Look for a calendar that includes family activities or create your own. Invite families to create a Jesse Tree as a way of remembering Jesus’ family tree and marking the Advent season together. What about materials and instructions for making a simple Advent wreath? Provide the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd 2018.

Help families create an Advent wreath by providing the materials as a take-home during your November Messy Church so that families are ready when Advent begins on December 2nd.

If your Messy Church has a Facebook page or other social media outlets, think about ways to use this social media to help families mark the Advent season. Create a unique hash-tag and invite families to post pictures of their Advent activities. Use social media as a community Advent calendar. 

Messy Advent Activity Links

Messy Christmas is a great resource for planning Messy Christmas or Messy Advent. It’s full of wonderful ideas for activities and celebrations. There is an older resource, Messy Nativity that is also available to purchase. Messy Nativity includes two ideas of projects to draw your whole community into the Messy Christmas spirit, beyond your monthly Messy Church.

The first three people to email Roberta Egli at roberta@messychurchusa.org  and request the book will get a free copy of Messy Christmas mailed to them.   

Advent and Christmas can be the busiest seasons complete with all the stress that goes along with the craziness. How can Messy Church help families find purpose in the midst of all the season’s comings and goings? 

Messy Church USA’s mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA.  Be sure to register your Messy Church on our website. 

Keeping Messy Church (Somewhat) Less Messy

Johannah Myers
Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC
Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

Getting started with Messy Church can be a daunting task. Keeping up with a monthly Messy Church can be even more overwhelming. Here are some simple tips for keeping supplies and ideas organized.

  • Organize your supplies. Most activities for Messy Church use basic supplies like glue, tape, scissors, paper, or crayons. Keeping these supplies organized makes prepping for Messy Church a breeze. We found under-utilized space in our church and added some shelving units. I keep shoe-box sized, clear plastic containers with the basics. A box for staplers, one for scissors, one for pipe-cleaners, one for beads. We have a 3-drawer plastic container that has glue sticks in one drawer, glue bottles in one, tape in one. Paper, likewise, stays organized in plastic drawer units. We use plastic pencil boxes to organize markers and crayons. Label everything! If an activity calls for markers, I can quickly grab 3-4 boxes of markers to put on the tables. As I prepare for a Messy Church, I make a list of supplies I need and then pull those boxes. The boxes come with me to Messy Church so as my volunteers clean up, scissors go back in the scissor box, staplers in their box, etc. We know what supplies we have on-hand so we don’t over buy or run out.
Organize by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
  • Stock up on basics (at the right time of year). Stores start stocking school supplies in the summer and prices for things like glue, crayons, markers, etc, go way down. This is the best time of year to refresh and stock up. Don’t just think about your next Messy Church; think about the basic supplies you need for almost every Messy Churches.
  • Organize your ideas. I make a plan each spring for the upcoming year, including dates and themes. The themes could be flexible, but it helps to plan ahead. If I know that sometime in the winter I’ve got a Messy Church about Ezekiel, for example, I can start pulling ideas in September. Best way to keep those ideas organized? Honestly, I’m completely addicted to Pinterest. I keep a board for Messy Church, Messy Easter, and Messy Christmas. And I’m not the only one! There are Messy Church boards galore including the ones from MessyChurchBRF. Pinterest now lets you add sections to your boards, making organizing even easier.

What tips do you use to keep your Messy Church organized and simple? Send your ideas to our Facebook page or email them to Johannah at Johannah@messychurchusa.org or Roberta at roberta@messychurchorg.  Messy Blessings, Johannah. 

Johannah Myers
Messy Church at Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, South Carolina
Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator for North and South Carolina

Messy Church USA’s mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA. Please join the Messy Church USA Network. Click here for more information.

Messy Easter…Telling the Story (Again)

by Johannah Myers, Regional Coordinator for North & South Carolina

Every year for Messy Easter, we see a surge in attendance. I don’t know whether it’s the season, parents looking for more Easter egg hunts, or what. All I know is that when we plan for Messy Easter, we plan for a crowd!

There are so many activities and possibilities for Messy Easter but after a few Messy Easters, it can feel as if we’ve done every activity out there. Where most Messy Church stories or themes are different each month, we’ve done Messy Easter before and will do it again every year. So how can we keep Messy Easter feeling fresh, even as we get set to tell this oh-so-essential story? Here are three ideas from our experience with Messy Easter over the past five years.

  1. Pick a theme. I know, I know, Easter is the theme. But one year Messy Easter could, for example, focus on Easter eggs (an Egg-stravaganza!). Pick your activities and crafts with that in mind. Dye Easter eggs, do an egg roll. In your celebration time, use Resurrection eggs to tell the Easter story. If you do an Easter egg hunt as part of your Messy Easter like we do, you can hide Resurrection eggs as a part of the hunt. Number the outside of the egg and as you tell the Easter story, call on the child who found that number egg to open it for everyone to see.
  2. Pick a story within the story. The passion story is your key story for Messy Easter, but what other characters can you use to tell that story? Last year for our Messy Easter, we used the legend of the donkey’s cross. We told the Easter story through the eyes of Esther, our donkey. We made donkey masks and had donkey snacks. Every family took home an illustrated set of story cards telling about Esther, the donkey, and how she encountered Jesus on Palm Sunday, in the Upper Room, at the cross, and at the empty tomb.
  3. Consider your layout. Do you usually scatter your activities around the room? For Easter, try arranging your activities in a new way. A simplified Stations of the Cross could work well here with different activities for each station of the cross. There are plenty of online resources for kid-friendly stations that would be helpful.
Esther the Donkey at Aldersgate UMC  Messy Easter 2017
Greensville, South Carolina

This year, our Messy Church team is planning for a Candyland theme. We’ll use activities that involve jelly beans and chocolate bunnies – things kids usually see in the stores this time of year. We’ll also set our activities up using the game Candyland as a model.

The focus at Messy Easter will always be the Easter story. But every year our team tries to consider how we can tell this story in a way that people hear it again for the first time.

Blessings, from Johannah Myers and Messy Church @ Aldersgate UMC in Greenville, SC.