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Out of a Mess: Embracing Messy Church Ministry

By Carrie Antczak

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Out of chaos, God created the world. Since the beginning of time, the greatest potential has lain… in the mess. It is out of a mess that God does God’s best work. I’m often asked why there would be a positive connotation with a title like “Messy Church.” No one likes messes. Aren’t we always trying to clean them up? Aren’t we always trying to avoid them? Why would we put those two words together? Because when we create a church community out of a mess, we step into our God-given creativity, not to “clean up,” but to create something beautiful.

Our church began its journey with “Messy Church” in 2017 when I was new to my church and looking for something creative and “out of the box.” Little did I know how much “Messy Church” would change and extend our reach to our community over these seven years - and counting!

We knew from the beginning that it would be literally messy. The joke is, “A little glue, a little glitter, and a whole lot of Jesus.” We didn’t initially know who would be interested in “Messy Church.” It was not our typical demographic who showed up. And I am ever so grateful.

In our first year, we noticed who our new “Messy Church” congregation was made up of single dads bringing their kids out for something to do before they had to drop them back off with mom and grandparents raising their grandkids. Families arrived, and we had no idea whose kid was whose. (We quickly learned to refer to the adults as children’s “grown-ups” because we didn’t always know the relationship.) Our church saw more racial and economic diversity than it had in years.

Would these families become a part of our “usual” church offerings (Sunday morning worship and Sunday school)? A few did. But most of our regular participants see themselves as part of our “Messy Church” family. As the years went on, we added Communion, baptism, and even Bible presentations to our “Messy Church” experience. “Messy Church” became a church within a church.

I am passionate about this program because I’m delighted to see new people and younger people genuinely enjoying exploring faith. Our church team gets to dive headfirst into their creativity in developing themes, activities, meals, and everything FUN. I’m positive “Messy Church” makes Jesus smile. (Even if we leave a little glitter here and there.)

I am passionate about this program because I’m delighted to see new people and younger people genuinely enjoying exploring faith.

When you enter a “Messy Church,” you are warmly greeted and then invited into some fun ` and—yes, chaotic —activity where you get a glimpse of God’s story. Later, you participate in worship that is part dance party, part hands-on prayer, part opening your ears and hearts to God’s grand story of love and grace. A shared meal allows you to share your stories with others and see that even in the mess, God is present.

And wow, what God can do with a mess!

Rev. Carrie Antczak is a deacon serving The United Methodist Church of Berea in the East Ohio Conference.

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