Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

Lucy Moore

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...crammed with good things... delights on every page... full of good fun, deep wisdom and practical know-how.
Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield


Overflowing with creative ideas to draw the community together for fun, food, fellowship and worship, this resource book contains 15 themed programme outlines. Each outline has ideas for creative art and craft activities, meal plans and recipes for eating together and family-friendly worship.

Messy Church grew out of one church's desire to reach out to those on the fringes of the church community and experience the love of Christ through creativity, fellowship and worship together. There is also a dedicated website at which explains what Messy Church is, why it got started and who is doing it now.

Visit the Messy Church website for Lucy's blog and more information about Messy Church

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...crammed with good things... delights on every page... full of good fun, deep wisdom and practical know-how.
Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield

Author info

Lucy Moore is BRF's Messy Church Team Leader, an international speaker and an Associate Missioner for Fresh Expressions. Her books include The Gospels Unplugged, The Lord's Prayer Unplugged, All-Age Worship, Messy Church, Messy Church 2, Messy Crafts and Colourful Creation. She also presents the Messy Church DVD.


Reviewed by The Sign - April 2011

Offering 'fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community', Lucy Moore's book is an engaging, lively and humbly thoughtful account of a church's experiment with community worship.

'Messy Church' began as a way to listen to what local people might want in the way of services. The result has taken off into a worldwide movement for all-age worship which meets the needs of people who are used to the old patterns of churchgoing.

In this book, you'll find out what she and her husband, a vicar in Hampshire, did with a committed team of church members, and you're offered ideas for how to make Messy Church in your own place.

If the idea of 'mess' and 'church' seem mutually exclusive, Lucy Moore challenges that. They found, if a church is going to welcome people as Christ did, it has to accept that they come in a 'mess' - not perfect, conforming, educated and easy-to-manage adult worshippers, but people struggling with many demands imposed by work, children, illness, disability, divorce, emotional baggage and aspirations.

The 'mess' is also - internal emotion, theological and spiritual. It's also about accepting that tidy boundaries around faith and churchgoing are not necessarily the way to experience the Holy Spirit. And in Lucy's church, 'mess' was also about creative play and artistic impression - though to enable that mess to happen, there has to be allot of careful planning.

If you don't see anything spiritual in paint blots and angels with paper doily wings, the cover of this book may deter you - but inside there is a potent the theological understanding of what parish worship can embrace, without losing other traditional ways of worshipping. It deserves to be read carefully and discussed by PCCs and church members, and anyone who wonders why lots of people don't come to church any more.

From Country Life Magazine - Autumn 2008

Messy Church describes what happened to one suburban church that realised 'we simply weren't connecting' - especially with children and families - despite suitable premises, leaders and volunteers, and some good ideas. But very importantly, neither church nor author consider this experience to be a model to be copied; rather it is an example to be learnt from.

The word messy might be off-putting, but part of it might be spelt risk. This experiment was about moving to, and beyond, the edges of the church, and - to a degree - away from the formal or the familiar. The people the church wanted to reach and serve were 'messy'. Their lives were not easily circumscribed by what normally went on in church. It was successful, particularly in how it brought all ages together in one worshipping community.

The book starts by describing the background, with brief but pragmatic theologies of messiness and the church. The key to messy church is a five-fold ethos: creative, hospitable (i.e. food!), all-age, Christ-centred and worshipping. There are very practical sections on safety, recipes and preparing for a messy church experience. The second and longer part is devoted to details of thematic programmes taking messy church through one year.

Many Country Wide readers will be from rural churches with fewer resources than the original messy church. But, like much all-age and children's material from the bible Reading Fellowship, this resource lends itself to picking, choosing and adapting. I believe that, if we are serious about reaching people beyond the comfortable fringes of normal church, this may be of a great help whatever community we represent and whatever the size of your church.

Reviewed by Simon Martin

From: The Methodist Recorder - 10 January 2008

For a taste of a realistic appraisal of the needs of the wider Church today, coupled with a wealth of well-judged, practical and supremely usable material, look no further than Messy Church.

Author Lucy Moore has drawn on the skills she has employed in youth work, drama, training programmes and creative presentations in order to produce a book so replete with wisdom that it is difficult to know which quote to choose as illustration. One such is:

"... This journey to faith involves bits of belonging, a little believing, a certain amount of ownership all swilling around together in a life-changing primeval soup while the Spirit works in us to bring us nearer to Jesus in our many different ways."

Hence: "If you juggle with this idea, you soon arrive at a church that not only is a joyful mess but which makes a mess joyfully."

The first 64 pages examine the concept and considerations of messiness while the remaining 130-odd contain programmes for the summer, autumn and spring terms, with three more for use throughout the year.

A summary of a messy church midweek session, as practised at the Anglican St Wilfrid's church in Portsmouth, begins at 3.30pm with half an hour of board games, drink and biscuit, followed by an hour's craft time, a 15-minute church celebration service and a last half-hour devoted to a hot meal.

Messy Church is also featured among a series of short stories on the Fresh Expressions DVD.

From: The Church Times - 26 Oct 07

This is an accessible, honest and highly practical book about a self-consciously fresh expression of church in Portsmouth. Its title is a reminder of the messiness of our individual and corporate journeys of faith, and it also reflects Lucy Moore's conviction that the Church 'should not only be a joyful mess but one which should make a mess joyfully.'

Messy Church at St Wilfrid's meets together once a month after school on Thursdays, when 60-90 people of all ages come together to do crafts, worship and share food. The stated aim of Messy Church is to be 'a worshipping community of all ages, centred on Christ, showing Christian hospitality, and giving people a chance to express their creativity, to sit down together to eat a meal, and have fun within a church context.'

Moore is clear that Messy Church is to be regarded as a church in its own right, not merely a parachurch group that serves to introduce people to the real thing on Sundays.

The book is designed to be both a stimulus and a resource for other churches. Its first section summarises familiar arguments about the necessity to experiment with different forms of church, before describing, in concrete terms, how Messy Church started and has evolved. It is generally a well-thought-through model, resourced by an enviable array of talented, committed and available people; and Moore is honest about some of the limitations, and the areas in which further work is required - for instance, the relationship between Messy Church and the regular Sunday congregation of St Wilfrid's.

The second section provides 12 units of high-quality thematic material (enough for a year), including details of numerous craft activities, and suggestions for worship. The book also contains recipes and hints for catering for large numbers.

The theological reflection in this book is sometimes a bit thin. I also found it puzzling that, despite the enormous amount of importance which Messy Church (rightly) attaches to food and eating together, there is no mention of this church's celebration of the eucharist. This is, however, undoubtedly a valuable resource for churches engaged in all-age activities and worship, and has much to commend it.

Reviewed by the Revd Dr Grenfell, Team Rector of Sheffield Manor and Course Director at Ripon College, Cuddesdon.

From: The Lincoln and Grimsby Methodist Church website

Everyone in the church seems to be talking about 'Fresh expressions of church'! So, what about Glentham?

Well, I have come across a wonderful concept called 'Messy Church' And so I found myself trawling the Internet for inspiration for our 'Interactive Easter Family Worship' and I came across a book called 'Messy Church' by Lucy Moore As I read the blurb about it I felt excited, it seemed to be just what we were looking for (and more!)

What is Messy Church?

'Messy Church is a once-monthly time when families come together to enjoy being together, making things together, eating together and celebrating God together through his work, through music and through prayer. It's different from a children's activity day because it's an event for children and their carers or parents together, and it's more than a local authority fun day because of the element of worship that underpins it all.'

And that's just the beginning. The book is very easy to read and wonderfully inspirational with loads of practical ideas.

From: Christian Marketplace - August 2007

Fresh Expressions of church are designed for those on the outside or edge of the Christian community. Messy church is a 'must have' for anyone - clergy, children's workers, creative people - serious about reaching people on the edges.

It is a brilliant little paperback jam packed with ideas. It is easy to read, laying out the theology and aims of messy church as well as giving 15 plans for all age sessions. Messy church is interactive church, including lots of easy to do craft, worship, Bible story and response, prayers and meals together. There are even recipes for meal suggestions!

Messy Church is designed for weekdays because of the fall in numbers of families coming to church on a Sunday. However, I have tried ideas from it at an All Age on a Sunday too, with positive response. Any book that suggeets that people are asked to 'sit down' rather than 'be seated' usually meets with my approval!

Reviewed by Ann Eyre.

From: Reform - March 2007

The book's main intention is 'to kick start some thinking about what particular form of fresh expression church might take.' The experience behind the book is of an Anglican church - St Wilfrid's. But I knew immediately who would love this book, someone who is part of a URC 'fresh expression' church.

Lucy Moore is part of the Messy Church team. This book places adults and children together in the context of fun, food, fellowship and worship. Messy Church is a monthly experience for families, children and carers, which runs from 3.30pm to 5.45pm on Thursdays. It is structured, but fun! After a welcome slot, there are craft activities, worship and food.

The aim of Messy Church is 'to be a worshipping community of all ages, centred on Christ, showing Christian hospitality - giving people a chance to express their creativity, to sit down together to eat a meal and have fun within a church context.'

The first part offers the story and concept of Messy Church, with a simple and superb section on messy theology. The point is to reach those for whom traditional church does not make much sense.

The second part offers four units of ready worked out programmes for three terms - summer, autumn and spring. There are also three unites on biblical landscapes - mountains, roads and seasides. Each unit has an aim, biblical background, food recipe, ten activities and an outline for celebration worship. The songs suggested are usually from either the Humungous Song Book, Kidsource, Shout to the Lord Kids or Great Big God.

From Pompey Chimes, the Diocese of Portsmouth's newspaper - February 2007

This book is both inspiring and challenging. It's not one on how to keep your church clean, but about a concept started in St Wilfrid's Church, Cowplain, where parents, carers and children can express their creativity, eat a meal together, experiences worship and have fun within a church context.

It's a book that starts to explore a particular 'Fresh Expression' of church, a joint Church of England and Methodist initiative which encourages churches to find different ways of being Church for different people and situations.

This book is for church leaders, children's and youth workers and anyone looking at ways of reaching out to their community. The book starts with an overview of Messy Church then moves on to what it is and its aims.

Whether you want to imitate Messy Church or not, it gets you thinking about what your church situation is and what Fresh Expressions of church are happening (or not) in yours.

She gives guidance as to how to create a Fresh Expression of church. It then moves of to 15 themed programmes: each programme consists of a meal idea, 10 crafts, a talk and worship outline with a suggestion of appropriate songs to use (all songs that I am familiar with!).

I found the ideas very simple and easy t follow and will definitely be looking at trying some out.

The crafts are fun and could be used for any midweek group, holiday club or Sunday programme. The talks are short and very user-friendly and again are suitable for other events.

I love Lucy's style and humour and found the book very easy to read. A lot has been packed into this book. I think it is a must for all children's workers - an excellent resource.

From Start the Week - 18 November 2006

Fresh Expressions of church is a topic hot for debate and exploration. By recognising the need for our churches to 'be church' in new ways for different people and situations, fresh and exciting projects are springing up around the country. One such 'fresh expression' is Messy Church that enjoys the gifts of food and creativity to help people come closer to God and each other.

In her book Messy Church Lucy Moore describes the monthly Thursday afternoon church where Mums, children, carers, grandparents can meet to enjoy craft activities, a meal and a short celebration of God's love for us. The book describes the concept and theology behind such a church. 15 themed programmes are provided with Bible references, craft and art activities, easy to prepare recipes for the meal and family-friendly worship outlines. A complete programme for creative activities, a nutritious meal and a short celebration allow for the community to have fun, be fed and experience worship in a church context.

"Messy Church is one of those learning places. It's crammed with good things and there are delights on every page." From the foreword by Steven Croft.

Lucy Moore is part of BRF's Barnabas team. She is a published writer, gifted performer and creative arts director. At Barnabas ministry and training events she shares the Bible through lively original poetry and drama, mime and storytelling.

Reproduced from Start the Week.

Book details

  • ISBN: 9780857461452
  • Published: 14 October 2011
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208
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