For Messy Church, the answer is ‘as many as you want’. Let me explain.
First of all there are those involved with the planning of each session which take place one morning each half term and main school holidays. Six of us meet together to share our thoughts and ideas for the ten activities, games, food and worship to fit a theme which may be based on the time of year or a story from the Bible. We try to include one food activity, one prayer activity, one table with puzzles and colouring and seven others suitable for children of varying ages and their carers.
Having decided on the activities another group of people source and gather materials, often including requests to all the congregation for items which can be recycled and reused. A number of people have developed skills in cutting out different shapes from card, foam or felt which can be assembled on the session day. If possible a small team of people prepare the Bradbury hall the evening before, setting out ten tables with chairs for the activities and an area with toys and books for the youngest children. If the hall is unavailable this has to be done around 9 am on the actual day ready for our 10am start.
With all the preparations complete, the full team springs into action. The children and carers are welcomed and registered before moving to begin the activities. Tables have one or two team members to demonstrate the task (This is one I prepared earlier!) and also explain how it links into the chosen theme. The children are encouraged to work together with their carers especially with the more challenging tasks. Sometimes they may work together to create a large collage or gather information e.g. "When is your birthday?"
The kitchen team members are busy serving drinks for everyone until 11.15am and preparing lunch which may be pasta with sauce, pitta breads or rolls with ham, grated cheese, small tomatoes and cucumber. We do try to keep the menu as healthy as possible although decorating cakes or biscuits is a popular food activity which can be eaten at lunch.
We always have someone on security duty making sure we create a safe environment. Although there are no other bookings in the building, our usual Coffee Lounge is in full operation and our receptionists are kept busy directing newcomers to the Bradbury Hall.
An important job for one of the team is to provide extra equipment or resources which may be needed for the activities especially if we have a large number of participants and we leave Karen free to circulate and talk with all the carers and children.
Around 11.15am the focus moves to the Sharland Hall for a time of games - again linked to the theme. These often involve working together as a team or group ~ it’s amazing how many people can fit on one sheet of newspaper!
After the games it’s time to move into the church for an informal time of worship using music, story and video exploring the theme for the day.
Some of the team remain behind in the Bradbury Hall to turn all the activity tables into a dining room ready for lunch. Not everyone stays to share in the meal but numbers can range from 60 to 120! Grace is said, or often sung as two teams, food is shared with lots of chat and fellowship before the youngsters and their carers make their way home.
Then it’s time for the team to wash up, clear away and tidy up often sharing thoughts about how the activities went and any ideas for the next Messy Church session.
Have I included everyone? Not quite, as we’re aware of the many people who remember Messy Church in their prayers and express their care and support. So, yes, the answer to the question has to be as many as you want. Working together we hope to encourage more and more people to join the best team of all - God’s Team.