Nurturing Children of Unchurched Parents: a Report from the Family Life Committee
In the UK, there is a ‘missing generation’. There are children being brought up now who have never heard of God and have no concept of the church.
Once at school they learn about religion as a subject alongside Mathematics, History and Science. One of the main problems is that their parents, those adults in the 20-40 age bracket, have had no experience of church themselves, or if they have it was as very small children in Sunday School.
In order to address this ‘gap’ in society and to give unchurched families an introduction to the Christian faith many churches in the UK are turning to ‘fresh expressions’ of church, an initiative being followed by several denominations including the Methodist Church. ‘Fresh Expressions’ are new ways of being church, often organized alongside a traditional church but with their own identity and way of expressing themselves.
One such ‘fresh expression’ is Messy Church, which was been growing and developing not only in the UK but across the world since 2006. Messy Church combines Bible-based craft activities and worship with the chance to share food together as a whole family. Messy Church is ‘trying to be a worshipping community for all ages, centered on Christ, showing Christian hospitality – giving people the chance to express their creativity, to sit down together to eat a meal and have fun within a church context.
Those churches which have started a Messy Church have seen a positive response from families who have previously had no church experience. Families, both the children and adults, ask questions, because the atmosphere is relaxed and conducive to discussion. There is no pressure to ‘do’ anything or join anything nor to attend regularly, but experience has shown that over time families begin to get a sense of belonging to Messy Church, friendships develop and the questions get deeper. Messy Church is a place where new disciples can be very carefully nurtured – never forcing ‘religion’ but allowing the seeds of faith to start to grow.