When Worship is “Messy”

Are you looking for family-friendly worship options that share God’s story in ways that are accessible and experiential? If so, then Messy Church may be something you want to explore. Check out Boost! Worship at Holy Trinity (Lebanon).

Take some sidewalk chalk, games, and cardboard cars; add Bible stories (this month’s were about God’s people taking journeys). Mix these elements with Lutheran liturgy, simple singable music, and an energetic passing of the peace. Top it all off with a kid-friendly celebration of the Eucharist and blessings, and you have all the necessary ingredients for “Messy Church” worship.

Pastor Gretchen Ierien and a team of dedicated volunteers have been planning and hosting “Messy Church” worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lebanon for over a year. Called Boost!, this experiential, family-friendly, hands-on worship service takes place on the fourth Sunday of the month at 10:45 a.m. The worship is based on a theme, such as Pentecost, and all the activities reinforce the theme through a variety of learning modalities.

Messy Church started in 2004 in at St Wilfrid’s in Cowplain, United Kingdom, when a group of congregants became frustrated with the fact that their church was failing to reach children with God’s story. The founders adopted guiding principles to define Messy Church as

  • a way of being church for families involving fun,
  • with values are about being Christ-centered, for all ages, based on creativity, hospitality and celebration

Now Messy Church and various adaptations have spread across denominations and around the world. You can read more about it here.

Children take leadership roles in Messy Church, and they often teach adults important lessons about faith and evangelism. Pastor Ierien notes that planning and flexibility are keys to a successful “messy” worship service.

If you are interested in learning more, contact Pastor Ierien at 717-273-8567. Other congregations in our synod that have adapted Messy Church principles for worship services include Grace Lutheran Church (Camp Hill) and Christ Lutheran Church (Shrewsbury).