During the 16-18th May, the Rev’d Julie Turnbull, rector at Toronto and CEY Ministry Development Officer, and Richard Turnbull attended the first International Messy Church Conference in the UK.

The aim of the conference was to celebrating and learning with the worldwide family of Messy Church.

They were treated to a special welcome by Archbishop Justin Welby. You can watch his message to Messy Church below…

You can find more from the Messy Church conference here.

Why Messy Church?

In a nutshell it’s time for a change. Our previous approaches to ministry to child, youth and family have, for the most part, diminished or even disappeared. There are multitudes of reasons for this sad fact, not the least of which are ageing congregations, changing priorities in the 21st century.

Messy Church is designed to intentionally reach out to the de-churched (i.e. those who used to come but no longer do so) or the un-churched (those who’ve never attended, have no idea about church or a skewed idea based on movie or TV depictions of church, Christians and clergy and/or media coverage of clergy abuse).

I’ve just been re-reading Messy Theology: Exploring the significance of Messy Church for the wider church . It’s a good and accessible read that explores the theological bases of Messy Church. Bishop Paul Butler wrote the introduction in which he points to seven factors that contribute to making Messy Church what it is and I think answer in part my original question: Why Messy Church?


  1. Family: Messy Church recognises the familial context of church membership. It’s for all the family and for all manifestations of family; for parents, children, grandparents, foster children, uncles, teens, single parents and single people. It works because families do Messy Church together and because individuals are included with families.
  2. Friendship: Because families of all shapes and sizes are welcomed and included, friendships develop and grow across all ages and demographics. Messy Teams model inclusive welcome and friendship and others follow.
  3. Food: It’s obvious that Messy Church was developed in an Anglican community, because one of the key elements is food. Sharing a meal together is profoundly scriptural – it was core to Jesus’ earthly ministry. Shared messy meal-times offer a relaxed opportunity for relationship building, for asking faith questions and for experiencing inclusion.
  4. Fun: The whole of Messy Church is fun, the activities, games, craft, meal and worship. Messy Teams put in a lot of effort behind the scenes to ensure that happens.
  5. Faith: Everything at Messy Church revolves around a faith based theme – whether it be a bible story, a Christian value, a biblical character, a church season or feast day. Yes, Messy Church is about teaching and sharing the faith; however Messy Church is also about stepping out in faith. It’s a church that is prepared to give it a go and adjust as required to ensure that the faith reaches all involved.
  6. Flexibility: Although Messy Church is inflexible about its core values – Christ–centred, all-age, creativity, celebration and hospitality; as suggested above the ethos of Messy Church is to give it a go and adjust as necessary. Most Messy Churches have amended at least one of the list below: days, time, personnel, venue, number and types of activities, food arrangements and much more.
  7. Fruitfulness: Messy Church came about as the result of a faithful community listening for and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As a Messy Church grows, it begins to bear all the hallmarks of the fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, patience and self-control. Members of Messy Church are beginning to love one another, serve one another, care for one another, pray for one another and some individuals are coming to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.


Why Messy Church?

Why not? It offers us a new way of reaching families and helping them to get to know Jesus Christ. Those who are already involved can attest to the growth in themselves, in those who attend, in those of existing congregations who offer prayer and support and even in the surrounding community.

If you want to know more about Messy Church you can contact me after July 4 on julieturnbull@newcastleanglican.org.au or 4959 8108

Find a Messy Church near you.


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