Children raced down the hallway, chattering excitedly on their way to find the rooms hosting crafts for their age groups. They dodged past […]
Published on: 06-04-2018
Children raced down the hallway, chattering excitedly on their way to find the rooms hosting crafts for their age groups. They dodged past me as I carried a box overflowing with paper, feathers, and ribbons toward my activity room. I was as eager as the children to see what creativity would blossom this month. We were planning to decorate flowerpots and plant them with spring flowers, and to create cross-stitch bookmarks. But I knew children always came up with crazy variations on the crafts I had prepared.
Every month my church holds a “Messy Church” Sabbath, a concept similar to Vacation Bible School but lasting only one afternoon. Our theme for the year is “Bible Heroes,” sharing the stories of such famous Bible characters as Esther and Daniel. Volunteers tell the story creatively, sing with the children, and organize crafts based on the stories. Families and volunteers come together at the end of the day to eat a healthful meal.
The neighborhood where our church is located has the highest number of single-parent households and the worst health record in the area. Messy Church aims to reach out to such struggling families and connect them with church members and, ultimately, with Jesus.
I make crafts with the 10- to 13-year-olds. They come from a mix of cultural backgrounds: British, Brazilian, and Eastern European, among others. They talk to me about their schools and hobbies and dreams. Sometimes they ask me questions about the Bible stories and about God. One of these kids is 13-year-old David.1He comes from a singleparent home and has some mental and emotional health issues, including ADHD. But he is funny and creative, and I love seeing how far he has progressed. When he started coming to Messy Church a few years ago, David was very difficult to engage. He emphatically didn’t want to go into any craft group; instead, he’d wander around the hallways or sit in a corner playing games on an iPad. But slowly, almost imperceptibly, David began to change. He saw that the volunteers cared about him. He got to know the children who attend regularly. And he began to meet Jesus. Now he sits happily in my craft group, coming up with new ideas, such as creating sensory slime from glue and paint and glitter, or making strange animals from pipe cleaners and pom-poms. He is full of inventions. He challenges me to think of activities that will work for energetic boys, instead of only catering to girls’ interests, which is an easier task for me.
Messy Church is loud, hands-on, and messy! There are difficult moments. It’s tiring. Sometimes it’s hard to get outside our comfort zones and intentionally reach out to visiting community families instead of simply staying with the people we know already. Yet in spite of the challenges, Messy Church always reminds me of the joy Jesus finds in the simplicity and enthusiasm of children, and of how much He wants them to know Him.
Jesus values the child in all of us. He says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (Matt. 19:14, NLT).2
1 Name has been changed.
2 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Lynette Allcock, a graduate of Southern Adventist University, lives in Watford, United Kingdom, where she produces and presents for Adventist Radio London.