This is a reflection of one church’s Missional Leadership For Growth project, by the Rector David Tully. In it he describes what they’re doing, how it’s going and the challenges they face. Do you think your church could try something like this? What do you like about the idea? What are your reservations?
Some churches around the country have started running a monthly Sweaty church event. It’s similar to Messy church, with parents/grandparents/carers taking part alongside the children, but games/sport based (rather than crafts). It also includes food and a short time of worship. It is being promoted by Scripture Union.
Compared with Messy church – it tends to appeal to slightly older children. It also sometimes appeals to boys and dads and grandads – more than girls, mums, and grandmas.
Some people are running it in schools as an after school club.
At Chester-le-street parish the Rector, David Tully, felt after doing the Missional Leadership for Growth training that they should try it from the start of 2018. It is run on the 4th Sunday of the month from 4pm to 5.30pm in their Parish Centre. They aim to reach out and share the Christian faith through this. They treat it as another congregation and record the service and numbers in the church Register of Services. They have Messy Church on 2nd Sundays at 4pm in the same building. The Parish Centre includes a large sports hall, which works well.
They start with warmup exercises/aerobics for 5/10minutes; followed by a fun video on a Bible story/passage, a few words about the theme and then a prayer.
At about 4.15 everyone who is prepared to take part is divided into teams of 5-8 (a mix of children and adults) who go around 4 activity stations where there is a game linked to the theme. An adult explains it and brings out the point of it. The teams are paired and compete against another, but it is not stressed who is the winner. They go around the activity stations circuit training style. It takes about 40 minutes
Refreshments are pieces of fruit and juice or tea.
They end with a big game just for the children, for about 15 minutes.
So far the attendance has varied from 36 to 64 (adults and children). They usually have a team of seven adults running it. Apart from the two key leaders who organise everything, the adults come along 30 minutes before the start to be briefed about their station and to pray together.
They were helped in setting it up by Rev Glyn Diggins, a curate in Malton, York Diocese, who came and led a training evening for the adult leaders.
There are not a lot of published resources as yet – only 6 to purchase from the Scripture Union. Chester-le-Street parish have developed some of their own already.
It faces similar challenges to Messy church:
- Of engaging with adults, developing relationships and encouraging them to be disciples of Jesus for themselves rather than just bringing their children along.
- Of children not simply outgrowing Sweaty and drifting away. Seeking to make them part of the wider church community.
It’s good that we are promoting physical activity which our country needs to value more with the sedentary and dietary habits of our nation. They deliberately chose to match it with healthy food as refreshments (some Sweaty churches serve pizza).
It is early days for Sweaty at Chester-le-Street, but it has been an encouraging start. It has children (and adults) who come to both Messy and Sweaty, some only come to one and not the other.
By Rev David Tully