Lucy Moore: Q&A
If you haven’t heard of Messy Church, then you must have had your head buried in the sand. But Messy Church for teenagers? Now there’s a thought. Editor Phoebe Thompson caught up with Messy Church founder, Lucy Moore, to hear more
For the uninitiated, what is Messy Church?
Messy Church is church for people of all ages to attend together, and to do together. It’s usually once a month, for people who don’t otherwise come to church, so it’s very missional. It’s a couple of hours long, with an hour or so of hands on activities exploring the Bible, followed by a quarter of an hour long gathered celebration, with story, song and prayer to bring the Bible theme together – and then finished off with a meal.
I hear you are hoping to include teenagers more in Messy Church – tell me more!
Right from the start, Messy Church has tried to be church for people of all ages. So although there are a lot of children there compared with many Sunday services, we’ve always said that it needs to include people of all ages, learning from each other and discipling each other, up and down the ages. And one of the problems of the traditional youth work format has been that we lose children and young people at the transition points. So young people become ‘too old’ for one group or children become ‘too old’ for the primary group, and we lose them. What we are trying to do with Messy Church is to make it a place where everyone can feel at home, where everyone has something to bring and where everyone can belong and make friends across the age ranges.
It’s so valuable having young people involved, so that they can model discipleship to us, and we can model discipleship to them - but we need to find ways of making it more suitable so that they have the best possible chance of staying, their gifts can be used, and they can get what they need from the faith community. This year we are focusing on talking to teenagers about what they need from Messy Church, what they want from Messy Church, and what they can give to it - and asking youth leaders for their view of things. We need to phrase things the right way, include challenging activities that teenagers want to do, and give teenagers opportunities within Messy Church to use their gifts. I’m really keen to get youth workers to see Messy Church as all-age and not as something outside of their remit – which is by and large currently the case, with some honourable exceptions.
A teenager who knows they will be missed by a five year-old or a 95 year-old is far more likely to show up than one who simply feels they should
A lot of youth ministry is done in a little silo – separated from the rest of church. Messy Church could be an opportunity to bring teenagers into contact with the rest of church - do you think this is important in the teenage years?
I think there is definitely a place for teenagers to meet on their own. It’s a time of life when you want to find your feet with your peer group, away from your family. And teenagers have particular issues which they need to address, which don’t apply to other generations. So there should be a time for teenagers to meet separately. But one of the teenagers at one of the teenagers days we held recently said this: ‘If you have youth church, then when you are 20 you are going to want 20 year old church, and when you are 30 you are going to want 30 year old church. And that’s not what church is about – church is about hanging around with people you don’t like, and people that you don’t understand.’ I thought that was pretty spot on! It will vary from place to place.
Some places can afford to employ a youth worker, and others can’t. I don’t think traditional youth work has failed because it hasn’t, and is dynamic and wonderful – but when we think about the tiny churches in rural areas or suburban areas who haven’t a hope of getting a youth worker – there is huge value in trying to make the gathered church serve everybody. Segregated youth work has not been proved to be the best way forward – it hasn’t ‘worked’ in the sense that our churches are not bulging with teenagers. So we are asking the question around whether or not the best way to grow long term disciples is for us to be all together, with people held not by structures but by relationships with others. A teenager who knows they will be missed by a five year-old or a 95 year-old is far more likely to show up than one who simply feels they should because they are on the rota. Messy Church is not the answer to everything but it does have the potential to be a rich growing place for teenagers, and I’d love the specialists (aka youth workers) to help us do that really well, and make the most of the opportunities we’ve got with it.
Want to host a teenager day at your church, or become a youth worker advisor on messy church with teenagers? Get in touch with Lucy with the Facebook page, or visit the website (www.messychurch.org.uk). Lucy will be hosting a seminar on involving teenagers in messy church at Cre’s youth work day, on Thursday 15th May. For more information – go to www.creonline.co.uk