Messy church for families
Nearly once each month, Latimer Christian Fellowship in East Ham, London hosts a Saturday event with crafts, cooking and creativity aimed at introducing local children and their families to church.
"Messy Church" is a movement started in Portsmouth which has now spread to other areas of the UK and internationally, with manifestations such as "Messy Fiesta" in Wales and "Messy Cathedral" in Guildford. The aim is to hold an event at church which is attractive to families who are uncomfortable with a traditional worship service.
The latest Messy Church held by Latimer Christian Fellowship was in January.
"The format of craft, meal, worship and games is just the latest in a number of these type of evenings held by Latimer - usually about ten times a year, and normally going under the title of 'Saturday Church', said member Colin Baynes. "These have proved highly popular and an effective bridge to the local community."
Colin described how the day happened:
"After refreshments, we had an hour of craft-type activity (on the theme of the Bible, which like many churches we're following this year). One table had a number of different Bible versions and Christian poetry books, encouraging discussion and study. Another had lots of Lego which people were free to use to express a story or idea from the Bible. On the third were edible crafts in the shape of coloured icing and ricepaper, to illustrate Bible verses. On a fourth table people put together 'scrolls' containing the 'Father's love letter'. On a fifth there was bookmark-making (using scripture verses). Finally a smaller table had some wooden Bible character puppets and animals for smaller children to play with.
"After this was a meal, followed by a short worship time, during which we looked again at the Father's love letter and gave out Bibles (and Bible activity books for the children) to those who wanted them.
"Finally there was a multiple-round general knowledge quiz. The whole event started at 4.30 and finished around 9 pm."
In October 2010 the church held a Messy Church with the theme of a Light Party, a popular way for churches to provide an alternative to Halloween for kids. People of all ages attended, some from the local estates and not regular churchgoers.
As churches look for ways to grow their memberships, Messy Church seems to be a viable option to reach families looking for a non-traditional experience of church.