Ideas & Suggestions for encouraging your team…

HOLDING INTENTIONAL SPIRITUAL CONVERSATIONS

How can we be intentional about starting conversations, asking people about their story, their dreams?

Messy Church is ‘church’ for all ages, far more than a craft-based social program for families. It’s a space created for people to come together and experience God through community. This will only happen well if we are intentional in the experiences we provide and especially in our conversations. We want
to be listening, encouraging, affirming
and also sharing about our own journey
of faith and our faith practices.

TEAM
It is vitally important for all team members to understand the importance of intentional conversations and relationship building. This is an essential expectation that needs to be communicated to all those wanting to be a part of a Messy Church team. This is a key way to connect with and disciple people.
Equipping, training and helping your team members practice intentional conversations is important, so their dialogue becomes a natural part of how they engage with those who attend Messy Church.
Have an expectant heart, God is at work and has placed eternity in people’s hearts already. Be outward focused and notice what is going on with others.
Relationship building and getting to know people better is the key.
When we show that we are genuinely seeking to understand people—not just change the way they think about something—we create a safe environment that will lead to sharing at a deeper level.
Part of relationship building is listening well and looking for opportunities to invite others along to social events or programs provided within your church. Connecting people to a wider group from the church will help with a sense of belonging.
When we become focused on those outside our church and on intentionally forming relationships with them, we begin looking at people more purposefully. Watching closely, listening carefully, praying continually and sharing with them with a purpose. We can send a powerful message to those who engage in Messy Church by showing that we ‘notice them’ and that they are important to us and important to God.

WELCOME
The sense of welcome begins even before people enter your building. Check that your signs are friendly and clear and that people can find the entrance easily. An A-frame with a balloon attached can help. A smiling ‘greeter’ at the door to help people with prams and say ‘hello’ and direct them to the ‘welcome table’ is an opportunity to be intentionally welcoming.
Be welcoming, smile. It sounds like common sense but if you don’t have the right people in this space to welcome others, some people may not get past the front door or be open to conversations.
Use people’s names!
Introduce the theme here; include explanation of the theme.
Explain what is happening, where they can find the activities and what they are exploring to introduce them to the faith-based theme.
ACTIVITIES
The experiences and crafts can be just that, or they can be experiences that open conversations. Ask your team to be intentional at their tables/spaces to be looking for spiritual conversations while involved in the activity.
Make sure that prior to Messy Church you prep your team members with the theme and possible questions that may arise.
Choose activities to fit the theme/scripture and can generate some spiritual discussion, but don’t ’force’ it.
Respect people’s choice of conversation topic, trusting God to provide other opportunities.
Have some extra team members wander around the activities looking for opportunities to have discussions, ask questions or connect with people.

CELEBRATION/WORSHIP
Be intentional about your content.
Keep it simple, keep it short.
It’s important to make links for people from the message/truth you are communicating to their everyday lives; make sure the ‘So what?’ factor is clear.MEAL
The meal time is a rich opportunity to have intentional spiritual conversations—don’t miss it!
Having reserved spaces (place cards) at each table for team members is a great way to continue to facilitate conversations among those attending.
Questions or conversation starters placed on each table are also a great way to generate conversation. This can be done with cards, paper placemats or even writing questions on butcher’s paper covering the table..
You may provide some basic activities or a video for the children so that parents can remain at the tables chatting with team members, building relationships and conversing.
TOP TEN TIPS TO BEING INTENTIONAL…
1.Every Messy Church begins with prayer —pray for opportunities to hold intentional spiritual conversations, pray for wisdom in your responses, pray for good connections among people and for relationships to be formed.
2.Keep your eyes and ears open. God is always ahead of us, so be ready to be adaptable if the Spirit leads.
3. ‘Be quick to listen and slow to speak.’ (James 1:19) Learn to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading as you listen to those you are trying to build relationships with; pay attention.
Cultivate the art of listening and asking open-ended questions. Seek to understand those you are building relationships with—their context, worldview, experiences etc. Practice—it takes time for intentional spiritual conversations to become comfortable.
5. Every conversation has the potential to become a spiritual conversation—but don’t force it, allow it to happen in God’s time.
6. Think relationships; cultivate relationships. Think about connections: how can we connect with this person/family?
7. Reflect back the thoughts and feelings you think you have heard so as to show that you are listening and interested.
8. Names are important. Find ways to remember people’s names and something about them or their journey.
9. Be willing to share your own story or testimony if asked, but don’t make it about you. Keep your story short and be wary of using ‘religious’ jargon.
10. “I wonder…” statements are great to help with understanding what others think, see or experience. Don’t be intimidated by people’s questions, you don’t have to have all the answers. Wondering and exploring together is a great way to build intergenerational relationships.

One thought on “Intentional Conversations in Messy Church

  1. Thank you Judyth for this excellent article. Our Messy Church has been meeting for over two years now and one of the issues we wrestle with is how to develop a desire in our attendees to look more deeply into the spiritual. Our greeting and relationship building is good, while the art/craft activities are well liked conversation is rarely entered into, the children especially are too interested in what they are doing and very few adults participate. My personal feeling is that a Godly Play format might work better, begin with a celebration which is not rushed then move into activities. We have good numbers each month but I know we could do it better.

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