Messy Church

Reviewed by: Allyson M. Hutchison, professional writing major at Taylor University.



Title: Messy Church

Author: Lucy Moore and Jane Leadbetter

Publisher: InterVarsity Press

Publication Date: 2017

Format: print book

Length: 205 pages


Messy Church is a monthly, weeknight church service with the goal of fostering a stronger community in a church body. These services have the intention of keeping people of all ages (child, teenager, adult, and senior) engaged through various activities. Each gathering usually incorporates a welcome, an activity or craft, a worship service, and a meal all linked to a specific biblical story.
Messy Church gives the reader descriptive ways to make each service a success. The welcome should provide some relaxation time for people to make connections with each other as folks arrive and get settled in. Leaders can also choose simple, theme based activities for people to participate in while they wait. For example, children can work in a biblically themed coloring book or play dress-up in costumes that relate to biblical characters. The second half of the book gives outlines of ten different activities that groups can do during the activity/craft time. Worship is also outlined in the second half, with different items that may be necessary to keep everyone involved. Simple food choices are listed at the beginning of every outline, as well. Moore and Leadbetter also list different mistakes they have overcome in their own Messy Church services (such as remembering to add variety so the services so that they don’t become predictable and repetitive).
Though these lessons are well mapped out in the book, it does not always seem to be applicable to everyone. For example, children and teens are involved in many different extracurricular activities. There will be the committed ones who would show up if it might fit into their schedule. On the other hand, there will be many who will just want to relax at home after a stressful day. Likewise, time may be an obstacle. Moore and Leadbetter suggest starting at 3:30 (right after school), but this is when many clubs or sports meet. They do suggest pushing the time back (as it is only a two hour service), but some schools may not have a limit as to how late the children can practice.
Another item that may lead to complications is money. Though most of the activities are low budget, doing all ten of them (as the book suggests) will add up over time. For a church with a lower budget, it may be easier to sustain a service like this if only two or three of the activities are chosen and done in more depth. This could also cut back the length of the service for the churches that encounter time constraints.
Messy Church services are great ways to create better community in the church and to develop leaders. Though such services will not be applicable to everyone, there may be ways of tweaking these ideas to make them work. Perhaps one Sunday service a month could be dedicated to this idea or it could be done quarterly instead of monthly to cut down on budget issues. Either way, Moore and Leadbetter have excellent ideas and offer a great guide for creating a stronger community within a church body, just as Jesus instructed.


Rating (1 to 5)

4 stars

Suggested Audience

20 years old and older, a Christian readership, someone who has an ambition to make a change in the church, a general nonfiction readership. This book is designed to help a leader of the church. Though some teens do help in children’s Sunday schools, it is more likely for a young adult to find more use for this book than a teen since the items may be easier accessed by adults.

Christian Impact

This book not only is a way to create a service in a church but also a way to incorporate God into home lives or even a Sunday school class. The activities are simple, and the lessons share important messages for all ages. This book can be applied to a home worship as a better way for parents and children to grow close to God together. The book could also be used for its intended purpose and build a stronger community in a church.

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Messy Church: Fresh Ideas for Building a Christ-Centered Community

About Ceil Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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