Diocese of Bristol participates in Messy Church research study

First published 6th May 2021

New findings about the effectiveness of Messy Churches have been released by the Church Army Research Unit (CARU), and show that the ‘messy’ approach has brought people closer together and helped them deepen relationships with God.

A total of 24 Messy Churches in the dioceses of Bristol, Durham and Hereford took part.

The Messy Church movement, set up by the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) in 2004, is an alternate way to engage with church and Christianity, and mainly attracts families and children. Messy Churches meet on Saturdays and weekdays as well as Sundays, and involve activities such as arts, crafts, sports and worship, and eating together.

St Christopher’s in Brislington and St Nicholas (also known as St Nix’s) in Yate both participated in the national research, which is reported in A Voyage of Discovery: Deepening discipleship in Messy Churches and beyond, and can be downloaded here.

“Across our diocese, Messy Church has proved a wonderful way of building connections with young families”, says the Rt Revd Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon.

Alison and Paul Thurlow, who lead Messy Church at St Nix’s, say: “We decided to get involved with the project because we already had several teenagers on our Messy Church team and we were keen to explore how we could be more actively involved in discipling these wonderful young people. Our hope is that the results of the research will encourage other Messy Churches to invite teenagers onto their teams”.

The research was based on the question 'How can Messy Church best make disciples?', and used six different approaches to making and growing disciples: Messy basics, social action and Messy extras for families; and maturing teams, peer mentoring and young leaders for teams.

Mary and Ed Poole lead Messy Church in the West Swindon Partnership and say the project help them further their engagement with Messy Church families.

“We really wanted to get to know the families better, including those who have been attending Messy Church for several years”, says Ed.

“Being part of the Messy Basics research helped us to be more intentional in building relationships and teaching the whole family, not just the children, about the Christian faith and deepening their trust in Jesus”.
Anita Dobson, Messy Church coordinator at Christ Church in Downend, says: “We learnt that investing in our young leaders made a huge difference to how Messy Church flourished. Investing in our young people’s responsibilities and discipleship meant that they were more engaged, especially in the worship time – now the younger children are looking forward to the time when they can wear the young leaders t-shirts and join the team! Now we have young leaders from non-church backgrounds praying together before meetings and leading worship.”

If you run, or are considering starting up a Messy Church, please contact Dan Jones (Youth and Children’s Adviser) to find out what support is available to Messy Churches. Click here to watch a Zoom gathering hosted by Dan and Lucy Moore introducing the latest Messy Church research into ‘deepening discipleship’, and Bristol Diocese’s participation in the national project.

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