Messy Church at St Thomas the Apostle in South Wigston

A ‘fun’ style of worship is breathing new life into the church of St Thomas the Apostle in South Wigston.

Its Saturday afternoon Messy Church – a name you might be familiar with – is bringing families into the church in their droves, to meet, pray, praise, get messy and eat together.

“We tried a mother and toddler style worship group during the week, and it just didn’t work,” explains Father Chris Johnson. “We were honest and accepted this was something of a failure, but felt determined to re-group, pray and think on.

“The need was there in our community for something inclusive for families, and at a more appropriate time. Messy Church became our mission and with God, we’re making it work.”

For those unacquainted, Messy Church is an expression of church for families involving fun. It’s Christ-centred and for all ages, based on creativity, hospitality and celebration.

When it comes to growing disciples, the numbers speak for themselves. Just five sessions in and St Thomas’ Messy Church already has 45 children on the books (not counting the grown-ups) – at least 20 of whom attend on a regular basis, with new families joining every month.

While the children might be the ones getting stuck into the messy activities, it’s not all about what they get from the sessions. It’s a real family affair. Children don’t just bring one parent, or even two. Some bring their aunties and uncles, older cousins and grandparents – many of whom are new to church.

“It’s wonderful to be able to engage with families we don’t usually have contact with,” says Father Chris. “Many of these people are ‘the missing generation’ that the church has not had chance to engage with before.”

A small number of these people already come to the church on a Sunday; some are baptism families being helped to fulfil the promises they made, while others are there through the word-of-mouth buzz being generated in the parish.


“It’s a completely new worshiping community within its own right, and that’s exciting as it’s something our church needs and wants,” says Father Chris.

Its success is also creating other opportunities for the church to widen its reach, including a pancake party, while four families have made enquiries about getting their little ones baptised.

St Thomas’ applied for a Growth Fund from the Diocese of Leicester and were awarded enough money to help them get their Messy Church off the ground.

You can find out more about the Growth Fund by clicking here.

“Having a Growth Fund has made a real difference to the kind of investment we are making in the parish,” explains Father Chris. “Having done things on a shoe string in the past, we’ve been able to purchase quality equipment and resources from the outset.”

Of course, nothing like this works without a dedicated team of helpers – leading the worship, running the crafts and preparing food in the kitchen.

Inspired to show kindness to those around them, they are deepening in faith, encouraging, guiding and serving, while opening their eyes to the social situations within their community.

“I like the way it gets me to be evangelistic,” says Laura, one of the leaders. “I enjoy speaking to people who can’t get to church on a Sunday as it’s a great way to talk about my faith and help others to explore what it means to be a disciple.

“Those who come – children and adults – are discovering fun with church in a way they didn’t think or expect, and that’s brilliant.”

Another leader, Paul, finds being part of this style of worship integral to his everyday faith. “It’s allowing me to carry on building my faith in a fun and creative way. It’s a great expression of church, and I’m learning something every session,” he says.

Themes over the last five months have included the ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus, Prayer, Christmas and the Baptism of Jesus.


During the session In February – which was set around the story of Joseph – we spoke to a few of the children and their grown-ups.


Methuli, (aged 8), and her cousin, Dihansa (aged 9), were at Messy Church for the first time.

“The Bible story was my favourite bit,” said Methuli. “It’s really good and I want to come back – my favourite thing was the singing,” added Dihansa.

Alex (aged 7) enjoyed dressing up and playing Joseph during story-time. “I love Messy Church, it’s the best!” he said.

Charlotte (aged 3), had lots to say: “I love painting best. I really enjoy coming to Messy Church. Jesus loves me and I love Jesus!”

Tyler (aged 9) said: “It’s fun. It’s a nice thing you can share with your family.” And Faye (aged 7) said: “I like getting messy and I love the food.”

Paige (aged 5) made everyone laugh by saying: “I enjoyed throwing Joseph down the well!” Scarlett (aged 7) likes making the edible crafts – especially when they involve sweets. “Everyone here makes me feel really welcome,” she said.

Anna, her husband Pete and their two children George (aged 5), and Alice (aged 3), have been coming to Messy Church since it began last October.

“The children love it, they can’t wait to come every month,” said Anna. “They really enjoy the crafts, stories and songs – they sing them at home at the top of their voices! It’s something we like doing as a family.”

Alison comes with her four year-old daughter, Scarlett. “It’s brilliant,” she said. “Usually, when you come to church the children go off to Sunday School and that means leaving them. Here we get to be at church together. It’s fun and a bit easier for the little ones to take in, and you get to meet lovely people, too.”


Would your church love to reach out to young families in your community? Have you thought about Messy Church, but don’t know where to start? Why not check out the ‘resourcing your work’ pages on our website.


This recent article from The Church Times revealing new research by Church Army about the impact of Messy Church, also makes for an interesting read.



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