Messy Church celebrates multi-generational relationships and discipleship
By Scott Klepach, Jr.

The Rev. Bruce Smith addresses the crowd during Yakima: Wesley UMC's Messy Church End of Summer Bash Celebration.
The Rev. Bruce Smith addresses the crowd during Yakima: Wesley UMC’s Messy Church End of Summer Bash Celebration.
There are scavenger hunts and painting crafts.

Or, there are camp songs and googly-eyes

But guaranteed, there is a great scripture message and time for laughing together. It’s called Messy Church, a new type of church experience at Wesley United Methodist Church in Yakima!

What’s Messy Church?
The program first became popular in the United Kingdom and is growing popular in the U.S. Messy Church brings all generations together – kids, teens, and adults of all ages – once a month for two hours to focus on a specific theme. This theme is enlivened through arts and crafts, games, music, a celebrative message, and a shared meal.

In September 2014, Wesley sent a team to attend Messy Church training at First United Methodist Church in Olympia. The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference supported this event. From this experience, Wesley folks began planning for and practicing Messy Church in late 2014 as a once-a-month worship and gathering. We celebrated themes such as “Thanksgiving” in November and “Messy Christmas” in December. This year, themes have included “Journeys,” “New Life,” and “Growth.” As Messy Church has evolved in its first year, Yakima Wesley has created partnerships to build on existing themes.

Children of Yakima: Wesley UMC celebrate the Blessing of Backpacks.
Children of Yakima: Wesley UMC celebrate the Blessing of Backpacks.

For instance, February’s Messy Church fell on Ash Wednesday, so staff and volunteers combined a more traditional service with the fun and fellowship that Messy Church embraces for a richer experience. In March, Messy Church hosted a special Family Night for Wesley Preschool, a ministry of the church. In June, the theme was a “Celebration of Light!” to celebrate the newly added solar panels at Wesley. These panels were dedicated to Bob and Pat Sullivan, longtime Wesley members and “Green Team” leaders. Pat was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year and could not make it to the event. But, she was able to witness the surprise dedication via FaceTime (video chat), just two days before passing away.

Why Messy Church? To embrace community!
Last August, Wesley promoted an End of Summer Bash to the community – including families who attended day camp the previous month. The Church also partnered with a local independent bookshop to bring in a Curious George mascot and storyteller amidst a backdrop of bouncy houses, Sno-Cones, and a Blessing of the Backpacks. That event brought in 175 people, most of who were not otherwise affiliated with Wesley UMC.

Ultimately, Messy Church is about building relationships. For those who may have never stepped foot inside a church or who have been discouraged by previous church experiences, this is the place to be. This program is ideal for those who do attend church, yet would like to experience something a little more creative, lively, and of course, messy than what they might typically find on a Sunday morning. Through relationship-building, Messy Church lets those inside and outside a traditional church experience a sense of belonging while focusing on experiential ways for each participant to become real disciples.

Wesley’s Messy Church attendance ranges from small gatherings to large crowds. It is held on the third Wednesday of each month from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Learn more about Messy Church at

Scott Klepach, Jr. serves as youth director for Yakima: Wesley UMC.

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