Valuing Messy Leaders

messy churchHere’s a big thank you to Messy Church leaders, written by Martyn Payne on the Messy Church website explaining exactly what you all do and the challenges you overcome:

We mustn’t underestimate the challenge of running a Messy Church. This isn’t just about putting on an event every now and then, which in itself would be demanding enough, but it’s about leading a pioneering form of church for which there is little precedent!

Messy church leaders are courageous people, often working in the dark, one step at a time, and juggling a variety of important pressures that include:

  • pulling together a team of volunteers who have had little or no training
  • planning a programme month by month that is within the skill set of those volunteers
  • connecting with the local community beyond the fringes of normal church and negotiating with local schools and perhaps Children Centres on behalf of the Christian church
  • welcoming and befriending adults and children for whom ‘church’ has never really been part of their experience before coming to Messy Church
  • adapting the Bible storytelling and celebration so that it is appropriate for an audience who are mostly only very vaguely aware of Christian stories
  • handling the often suspicious and sometimes even critical comments from a traditional Sunday congregation about the purpose of Messy Church
  • experimenting with sensitivity new avenues of Christian discipleship both within and parallel to the monthly meetings but with few useful workable models to draw upon
  • balancing the demands on their time from Sunday church and the growing opportunities within Messy Church

and alongside all this – as if that wasn’t enough! – coming to terms with the growing realisation that they are in effect unacknowledged, unordained and untrained church leaders within a national and international family of missionary congregations that is one of the fastest growing expressions of church of our day.

No, we definitely mustn’t underestimate the challenge that our messy leaders face and how hungry they are to hear encouragement and affirmation. However on my visits I often wonder just how much genuine support they are receiving within the whole body of Christ at their ‘sending church’. Their ministry needs to be clearly recognised and in fact they may also need to be ‘released’ from many of the things they’re also being asked to do on a Sunday in order to fulfil their messy calling. They would never themselves ask to be set free from those tasks – their loyalty and commitment to the church is too great – so that release needs to come ‘from the top’ and that is one of the biggest challenges for many Messy Churches.

In my experience Messy Church leaders are a remarkable group of lay people who are mission-minded, reflective, thoughtful and committed. Maybe we have spent far too much time, particularly in the established churches, training specialized leaders ‘for the pulpit or the communion table’ when really our focus should have been on encouraging and equipping the women and men who on the whole sit passively in the pews for most of our traditional church services, but who can most assuredly be God’s Spirit-filled movers and shakers in any church.

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