Messy Church is a fresh expression of inter-generational worship, service, and fellowship experiences which values being Christ-centered, based on creativity, hospitality, and celebration. We used the framework for Messy Church for a Messy Family Christmas event last December for an afternoon event. Thirty minutes for creative activities; thirty minutes for inter-generational worship with familiar live music and a jacked-up children’s moment; thirty minutes for table life with a simple meal of soup, bread, and water. It was a huge success in registration of 100 and actually 120 in attendance. Our Missions Committee also used the Messy Church model as an opportunity to extend a Christmas blessing to families in need who are serviced by our food pantry and Teach-One-To-Lead-One missions in our local elementary and middle schools naming it The Christmas Table for the sole purpose of growing in relationships and sharing table-life with even more families in our community.

After receiving permission to take on the four 5th Sundays in the coming year to expand the Messy Church model in our context, we chose to present a Messy Family Lent event as an opportunity to celebrate the end of our first Glee Club & Cherub Choir season on March 31st. What was different? We chose to offer it as a takeover for the first part of the 11am Sanctuary service where the children sang, signed, offered the call-to-worship as a call and response, and were flanked by worship art the children had prepared with six panels representing six scenes of the Lent season in the life of Jesus.

The schedule included twenty minutes of familiar music (Jesus Loves Me; This is the Day) including special music (song and sign language) of Rend Collective’s “Strength of My Heart.” We then dismissed from the Sanctuary, along with all of our parents/families, to the gym for a beautiful signing piece from our Cherub Choir (4-5 year olds) followed by eight stations of experiential activities. Parents were required to stay with their children as they moved from one station to another. At 12noon, the stations closed and families joined up at tables (assigned tables of eight for families who registered to encourage families to make new friends) along with additional table and chair spaces for 32. With two two-sided serving stations, we served sloppy joes, buns, shredded cheese, chips, pickles, and water which folks signed up to bring when they registered. At 12:20pm we finished the event with a sing-along of Jesus Loves Me and This Is The Day (song sheets on the tables) and a rousing rendition of a JumpStart 3 song our students have enjoyed singing since the first of the year.

This particular Sunday was the beginning of Spring Break. Expecting numbers to be low, we were surprised with the 85 registrations. Knowing what happened at Messy Family Christmas, I planned supplies for 125 at each station that had individual take-aways. We used everything! One of the reasons this planning freak gal likes to use the Messy Church model for creative and inter-generational stations is that not everything is a craft requiring a fixed amount of individual take-aways. Each station is not about the task, but rather the discussion and relationship-building.

With our theme of JESUS IS AMAZING, the following stations were set up around the perimeter of the gym. Not all the stations were ‘manned’ since the families were to remain together. When the station was ‘manned’, it was manned by past Ambassadors (current middle school youth) or an adult (not a parent/grandparent), and the story eggs were led by a husband and wife team who shared the Resurrection story with flare, excitement, and creativity.

Station #1 – Decorate bag to carry goodies home
Discussion: What do you think about Easter?
What do you think about Lent?
Did your family do something special for the season of Lent?
Jesus is amazing!

Station #2 – Decorate an altar cloth for the altar table in the Treehouse
Supplies: Full Sheet
Activity: Draw a cross and write your name around it on the sheet in a sharpie.
Discussion: What does the cross remind you of? Jesus died on a cross so we could be forgiven and was buried in a tomb, but He didn’t stay dead. He rose on the 3rd day to let us know that we are forgiven. A cross reminds us of God’s love for us. For God so loved YOU that he gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but will have everlasting life. John 3:16
After Jesus died on the cross, the women who followed Him, wrapped up His body and laid Him in a tomb (a cave carved out of rock.) What Jesus did for us on the cross is amazing!

Station #3 – Lent words to know
Supplies: Scrabble letters on a large cookie sheet from the kitchen
List of words to start with: Lent, Easter, Jesus, cross, blood, water, soldier, pray
Activity: Make a word; build on a word already on the cookie sheet (like a crossword/scrabble board).
Discussion: During Lent we might hear lots of new words like ‘resurrection’, ‘redemption’, ‘holiness’ which we don’t typically hear any other time of year. What are some new words you have heard? Every word points to Jesus, because Jesus is amazing!

Station #4 – Story Eggs
Supplies: Wooden eggs
Activity: Draw symbols on your egg to decorate it so you can tell the Good News of Jesus.
Discussion: Dots – Jesus’ mommy Mary & friends cried tears of sadness when He died and cried tears of joy when He rose again
Hearts – God sent His son Jesus so we would know how much He loves us
Swirls – God made you and Jesus loves you
Cross – Jesus died on a cross, but is risen because Jesus is amazing!
Star – Where is Heaven? Heaven is up like the stars are up! Jesus walked the earth for 40 days to talk with his family and friends after His resurrection then went up into the clouds to (1) prepare a place for us when our time on earth is through, and (2) to send us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to help us live a life that honors God and our family as followers of Jesus. Jesus is amazing!

Station #5 – Decorated Crosses
Supplies: Wooden crosses
Activity: Have children choose a wooden cross they can keep.
Discussion: Talk about why the cross is the most important symbol of Easter for Christians (Believers and Followers of Jesus). Jesus in amazing!

Station #6 – Please Stones
Supplies: Small stones/jewels
Activity: Pick up a stone/jewel and hold it in your hand.
When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked God to please let something else take place to save people from sin. But, if this (Jesus dying on the cross) was the only way people could be saved and forgiven of our sins, then He would do what God asked of Him. This was a “Please prayer.”
Discussion: What’s on your mind? What are you hoping for? What are you wishing for?
Pray a “please” prayer (a prayer where you ask God “please”) for what’s on your mind.
When you’re done, place your stone in the bowl along with everyone else’s. Notice the growing numbers of prayers we share together.
God hears every prayer, even the ones that seem small or silly. Jesus is amazing!

Station #7 – Crown of Thorns
Supplies: Brown playdoh
Activity: Mold a circle/crown with the playdoh and place broken toothpicks in it to make a crown of thorns.
Discussion: The first time ‘thorns’ is mentioned in the Bible is as a punishment for disobeying God’s first and only rule for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Because they disobeyed and did eat the fruit from it, they had to leave the Garden and now grow their own food ‘among the thorns and the thistles.’ Now we see that a crown of ‘thorns and thistles’ were placed on His head. This is an example of what we call, “The rule of first mention” in the Bible. When something is mentioned in the Bible for the first time, it matters how and when it is mentioned throughout the Bible. What does it feel like to your fingers? Jesus loves you so much that He took the punishment for our sin (our selfishness) so we can be forgiven and learn to live a life of kindness and help for other people. Jesus is amazing!

Station #8 – Rolling the Stone
Supplies: Marbles, poster paint, linen hand towel
Activity: Roll marbles in paint, and then roll them over the hand towel to leave a pattern.
Discussion: Talk about the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb=the cave where Jesus was laid after He died on the cross. Jesus is amazing!

“They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:7