A Blogpost by Roberta J. Egli
Several years ago, I found this print in the clearance section of my local Michaels’ craft store. I purchased two of them, and they both hung at the church where I was serving as pastor at the time. We had begun our local Messy Church several years earlier and this print spoke to our experience of starting a Messy Church…we made lots of mistakes, we were real with each other and we did it all in the name of Love. We discovered that starting and sustaining a Messy Church is a messy process yet everything always went more smoothly when we kept ourselves centered in God’s love, great things happened.
January is the month that my husband and I spend some time decluttering and organizing our home. (We began this yearly routine before we ever heard of Marie Kondo). This year, my husband found this print in the garage and brought it to my office. He suggested that we hang it in the hallway outside what is now the Messy Church USA office. When he showed it to me, there were papers scattered everywhere; I was preparing packages to mail, I had books stacked high to make some space for 10,000 newly printed Messy Church brochures and also 70 copies of the 2019 featured book for renewing members, Messy Togetherness by Martyn Payne; in other words, my office was a complete mess! So I laughed when I read the phrase that had originally drawn me to this print …We Do Messy!
I am a person who loves the beginning of the year. I love coordinating my calendars and writing down annual, quarterly and monthly goals. I get satisfaction from crossing off items on my daily to do list. However, this month, the task of ‘writing a Messy Church blog post’ has not gone according to plan! It is now past the middle of the month and there has not been any January blogs posted! My expectations for my work this January has not met the reality! So when I see that print each time I enter my office, all I can do is laugh and remember that in this work…We do Messy!
I wonder how your expectations for your local Messy Church has met your reality? I am reminded of our experience in our second year of offering Messy Church. In our first year, we had a steady growth of number of people attending our local Messy Church. However, in our second year, our attendance was down significantly. As a team we discussed our disappointment and wondered what we were doing ‘wrong’. One member of our team reminded us that earlier we had prayed that we would develop deeper relationships with our families. With our lower numbers each month, those relationships were developing as we had more time to have relaxing conversations. Since we were not so busy at our activity tables, or getting food ready, we were getting to know each other and sharing our faith in a more profound way. God was showing up in a big way and we had not been paying attention as we focused on the numbers.
I know that as leaders of Messy Church, there will be times when you will be disappointed that your plans and expectations do not meet the reality of your experience. Perhaps not as many people show up and you wonder if all the work in preparing for your Messy Church is worth it. Perhaps you run out of food because more people show up that what you expected. Perhaps a beloved volunteer gets ill or ‘burned out’ and no longer is able to host a activity table. Perhaps you hear the same question for the tenth time from a member of your church leadership, “when are the Messy Church families going to start attending ‘church’?” (Implying that the only ‘church’ that is ‘real church’ is the traditional Sunday morning worship). At those times, I hope that you will pause, remember to laugh and be attentive to how God is showing up over and over again in all of the messiness of Messy Church!
As you lead your Messy Churches throughout 2019, my prayer is that you will remember that Messy Church is a place where God shows up and our task is to pay attention. At Messy Church we are creating a welcoming and sacred space where people can join with each other in all of their marvelous ‘real’ lives. We come to Messy Church with as both broken and blessed people and as we share our lives, we are drawn closer to one another and closer to Christ. The Holy One is present in the midst of our messy relationships, our messy questions, our messy to do lists, our messy schedules and our messy lives. Celebrate the welcoming space you are creating at your Messy Church and pay attention to where God is showing up. Remember…We Do Messy!
Messy Blessings, Roberta