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Messy Church success

Thomas Baldwin reports on new research which highlights the impact of Messy Church in reaching people outside the church.

RESEARCH commissioned by the Church of England has found that the Messy Church movement is reaching a large number of people who would otherwise not attend church.

More than 250 Church of Scotland congregations run a Messy Church, a family-friendly (but not solely for children) exploration of biblical themes through creativity and fun, usually followed by a sit-down meal. Organisers stress that it is very much an expression of church in its own right, rather than a craft group or a club, and that it is primarily for people who don’t belong to or attend any other form of church.

Founded 15 years ago at a church near Portsmouth, it has spread worldwide, with Scottish churches among the earliest to try the approach.

The report, Playfully Serious, was produced by the Church Army’s Research Unit and launched at the Church of England’s General Synod in February. Among its findings was that six out of 10 families who attend would not otherwise be part of a church.

The researchers concluded that while some Messy Churches see themselves as outreach initiatives, a way to reconnect families to the traditional Church, many others see themselves as fresh expressions of church offering families a different style of church congregation.

Overall almost four in 10 Messy Churches are engaging in sacraments such as baptism, but that rises to five in 10 for Messy Churches that intend to be new church congregations. The report recommends that Messy Churches are encouraged to see themselves as fresh expressions of church if they hope to help families to follow Jesus and grow in faith, when this is not included elsewhere in the life of the parish.

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