Discipleship under the radar

Helping people grow more like Christ - the Messy Church way

Messy Church boosts church growth... but that's not all

Independent research shows that Messy Church significantly boosts church growth. But that's not all; it's just as ambitious to grow disciples as to grow numbers. 

We sometimes assume that the real measure for discipleship is whether someone comes to church every week. But is there more to it than this? Some would argue, ‘Messy Church families only come once a month, so this can’t be proper discipleship. They need to attend church more often’.

But people are coming closer to Christ through Messy Church. They are requesting baptisms and confirmations, asking questions and changing their attitude to church, God and the people around them. The Holy Spirit is evidently at work in their lives, despite the fact they may only come to ‘gathered’ church once a month.

So, if there’s more to discipleship than weekly church attendance, what might it look like in this peculiarly Messy context?

Journeying together, slowly but surely

Maybe it’s significant that most people come in a group - often a family group. The very structure of a Messy Church session invites togetherness and relationship. Messy discipleship is a community - not just individuals - on the move towards God

Another significant aspect is that Messy families often are a long way back from any recognised marker of faith when they first come. Through the grace of God and the sustained love of their Messy Church family, they grow in knowledge of and warmth towards Christ and his people. This can be a slow process, often taking place ‘under the radar’.

And thirdly, discipleship in Messy Church is at its best when it is recognised as a journey for the team as well as for the families. When team members go into their Messy Church in an attitude of worship, expecting to meet Christ in the stranger and to learn from their ‘guests’, discipleship happens on many levels.

woman washing young boy's feet at a Messy Church

A different way to meet Jesus

Messy Church discipleship may look very different from traditional discipleship: it will be more family-based and happen in the home, out of sight. It may well be expressed in friendship or social action rather than increased church attendance. Like the child in the middle of the grown-ups who surrounded Jesus, it can be vulnerable to criticism, looked down on, unimpressive at first glance. But it is very real nonetheless.

Bishop talking to granddaughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother at their confirmation

When one couple started coming to Messy Church after having their son baptised in 2013, it led to a rekindling of faith in members of four generations of the family. Daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all confirmed at the same time, four years later. 

One three-year-old Messy Church member was putting up Christmas decorations with her mother at home. ‘Christmas is about Jesus,’ she said. ‘I meet Jesus at Messy Church.’
Messy Church logo

How BRF helps Messy Church grow disciples

With every craft idea, session plan, book or magazine resource, newsletter, social media post, training programme, consultation or presentation, BRF's Messy Church team have as their goal bringing people closer to Jesus - whatever their starting point. Recently they've been encouraging Messy Churches to place a special focus on discipleship by taking part in a six-month Discipleship Pilot and through a Self Review Toolkit developed by the Church of England Diocese of Bristol.  

Find out more       

Did you know there's also a guide for Anglican churches wishing to explore Communion in a Messy Church setting? This is a collaboration between Messy Church BRF and the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England, with help from Hymns Ancient and Modern.

Find out more       Donate to Messy Church

Image acknowledgements

Granddaughter, great-grandmother, grandmother and mother at confirmation service © Keith Blundy, cropped

Bishop talking to granddaughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother at their confirmation © Keith Blundy, cropped

Woman washing boy's feet © Southwark Diocese Communications