Messy Church

Fishponds CE Academy
Diane Simms, Revd Lizzie Kesteven, Claire Roberts and Elaine Jones
St Mary’s and All Saints’ Churches, Fishponds

Running a Messy Church in or through a school may need an existing relationship but it is a rewarding and surprisingly wide-reaching activity. It can also help schools with their provision of wraparound care, standing as an after-school club.

Messy Church at Fishponds runs as an after-school club and is effective as a church-school link in two ways: firstly, it acts a presence beyond the vicar so that the school community is aware that there is a wider Christian community; secondly, the Messy Church is there ‘in the mix’ and is therefore part and parcel of the school’s weekly rhythm rather than simply an ‘icing’.

When the idea of running a Messy Church was raised in the congregation, there was a concern that it should be of a good quality in order to be a worthwhile contribution to the life of the school. Feelers were put out to neighbouring churches for those who had worked or were working with children. A team of five was put together to lead, plan, set up and pray. They approached the principal to ask about a monthly service but were asked to come in every week!

The session is advertised in the termly newsletter with the other after-school clubs. With a capacity of 25 it is over-subscribed. Working in a team is important to running Messy Church in this context: some children need one-to-one help or supervision, the school has grown to rely on the team, finding funding is made easier with a few more people. The fact that the team includes a member of staff has also been a great help.

In a recent review of the school’s clubs, the principal praised Messy Church, noting that, as well as it being free and of a good quality, it was the only club where parents go. Running a Messy Church is often good for families and this team has made the most of connecting with parents at the end when they arrive to pick up their children. Parents have sometimes turned up early to join in with closing prayers or have volunteered to help for the whole session.