Messy Church is Happening in East Ohio

The Spiritual Formation & Christian Education Committee and CEF co-sponsored a workshop in February of 2017 focused on Messy Church.  Since that time, Messy Church has been percolating in several churches around East Ohio.   Following is an article from the East Ohio E-news about what’s happening at The United Methodist Church of Berea.

Finding Faith and Friends in the Mess of Life

By Rev. Carrie Antczak*

Life is messy. Often times, those who are yet to experience faith community, or who have not experienced it in a long time, fear that their mess is not welcome at church – but nothing could be further from the truth. Messy Church embraces the idea of mess through creative play, worship experienced as a celebration and a community meal.  It’s a way of doing church that tells our communities, “your mess is indeed welcome at church.”

At the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District), we launched Messy Church with a desire to reach people in our community in a creative, welcoming way. At first the idea of getting messy to form new connections sounded odd – what could glitter, glue, and God have in common? How could making a mess, make community? As it turned out, it was just what we needed, and what new friends were looking for.

Young girl paints with her feet within the lines of a cross painted on paper

So we gathered a team, encouraged the congregation to come as hosts, and to bring friends. Messy Church was advertised various places, but got the most response from posting it on Facebook. Who showed up? Friends of congregants, kids with their dads who they only saw on the weekend, grandparents with custody of their grandchildren, the OhioGuidestone community, some families needing a free meal, some families with children whose parents had never been to church.

The success of our first Messy Church in November of 2017 encouraged us to host others, once-a-month, throughout the school year.  Average attendance was 65 people, most of whom were not members of our church. By the end of the year: two young people had requested information on baptism; a few new families were regularly attending church; and we developed a passion for using slime, sand, and sloppy joes for the glory of God!


If you were to peak through the window during Messy Church, you’d see round tables surrounded by people of all ages getting sticky.  You would see that no child is sitting still, and all of them are joyfully interrupting me and Senior Pastor Nathan Howe. You would hear loud laughter, be surprised by little feet running fast with no one scolding them, and you’d see instruments and praise ribbons strewn about for all to participate in worship as they feel led.

During worship you’d hear “secular” music turned into worship music, and you’d witness kids sliding under pews in races, and some child begging their grandma to take a picture of them in the pulpit. This is their space, where they come, listen, and meet Jesus.

Learn more about Ohio Messy Church on Facebook, or come and visit UMC Berea from 4-6 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month to participate in Messy Church.

Finding faith and friends in the mess of life. Messy Play. Messy Worship. Messy Dinner. All welcome. Always our gift to you.

*Rev. Carrie Antczak is a Deacon in full connection serving as the pastor of Faith Formation and Outreach at the United Methodist Church of Berea.


Being Disciples, Making Disciples, and Maturing Disciples for the Next Generation

Stephanie Caro, the hilariously informative presenter from Annual Conference 2018, will be spending time with us to continue the conversation about reaching those young people in our communities.

If you have an average worship attendance of 120 or less, and a desire to minister with the young people in your community, come join the conversation.

The training will include:

  • Who is the Small Membership Church?
  • Facing Today – it doesn’t work with millennials
  • A Discipleship Path
  • Question and Answer Time


Where:  Wanake Camp & Retreat Center – The Chapel

When:  September 20, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Refreshments will be provided.   Lunch will be by reservation following the event.

Sponsored by the Spiritual Formation and Christian Education Committee of the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Registration is $10 for the event.   If you wish to stay for lunch afterwards, the cost of the event and lunch will be $18.   Registration here:

Our Presenter is Stephanie Caro of Ministry Architects.  Stephanie is the facilitator of the Small Church Cohort that began in 2017 as a partnership between the East Ohio Conference Spiritual Formation, Young People’s Ministry and Ministry Architects.   The cohort is a ministry training and coaching program designed to help Smaller Churches in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church be the best ministry that God has created and called them to be. The goal of this cohort is to help the participating churches develop their vision for ministry with young people while helping each team prepare a strategic plan to accomplish it.


Safe Churches and Safe Sanctuaries

With the rise of violence reported in our culture and even in local churches, many local congregations have reached out looking for resources to help make their church a safe place. Some confusion has happened, though, with Safe Sanctuaries, which is focused on child-abuse prevention, and overall church safety. We have great resources on our conference web page to help support the Safe Sanctuaries child-abuse prevention in local congregations – just look here:

For help with church safety, there are several places to look.  Begin by contacting local law enforcement for any support or resources they provide. The connection with the community is always a good thing. Following are links from various resources that focus on church security and active shooter issues. The first are UM resources and the others are from the common insurers for local churches.

There has been a tendency in some local congregations to incorporate the safety of the church with Safe Sanctuaries Policies and Procedures. While this may seem like a logical connection, it may overburden the people who are responsible for each area. It is best to allow each area to focus on the overall safety where their passion lies.

Formation, Family, and Faith5

When you sit down at the dinner table, can you imagine anything life-changing happening? Or is it a rush of hurry up and eat your vegetables? That’s the way it was at our house.  We have a five-year-old and a two-year-old and we know that the older they get, the harder it will be to get them around our table for even fifteen minutes. So we decided to make it a priority right now, that they wouldn’t want to live without.

Now granted – it is nowhere perfect, and some nights go better than others.  But each night, we try to let the “Faith5” model guide our dinner time.  Some families do this at bedtime, others in the car, but we found that dinner works best for us – mostly because our two-year-old son is strapped into his booster seat, and our 5-year-old daughter isn’t distracted by other things.

So we get everything on the table, strap in D, and clear H’s crafts off to one side of the table. We go around and share our highs and lows – the best parts of our day, and the worst.  Sounds simple – but this is how we learn from each other what is important to us, and how it affects us. It teaches our kids turn taking, and listening – because they will need this information later in the ritual. Our young talker is just now starting to chime in and understand – what was the best thing today D? “Doh” (Play dough).  For H it might be gym class, or special mommy time. The bad stuff? For H it was not being included in a game. For D it was “no do” (He couldn’t have his pacifier all day). For us, we don’t hide our mess with them.  My worst part of the day was someone ignoring me. For my husband, it was a co-worker gossiping.  Our best parts of our day usually are about family or friends, or getting to help someone, or perhaps each other. How precious are these things for our children to hear? We all struggle, and we all have things to celebrate and be grateful for.

Next we recite our Bible memory verse for the week.  Yep. Little kids can memorize scripture.  There are tons of kid-appropriate, and easy, verses for kids to memorize.  If we get tired of that, we go to the take-home sheet from Sunday School for ideas on faith-talk.  Then we “talk about it” or apply the verse or topic to our highs and lows – uh oh, did you pay attention? They did – H will remind me that our verse talking about patience would be helpful in dealing with people who ignored me. I can encourage my husband with the verse.  Or we can celebrate D’s love of play dough, with all of the ways God blesses us. This is both a time for encouragement, and loving challenge.

Then we each take turns adding to a prayer. We all have to say something, but it’s never a battle. The heart felt prayers of your children are priceless. We pray for our highs and lows, and those we know who are in need of grace.  Our son always prays for one family member who really needs prayer – how would he know he needs it? He’s only two right? But you’d be amazed at the transformation that is happening in that member’s life right now.  He knows and his prayers are being heard.

Lastly we say “God bless you” to each other, by name, looking each other in the eyes.

Can you imagine doing this ritual every night? How would it change your family dynamic? How would it form authentic faith in your family?

We’ve skipped nights. We went a whole week once without doing this in the past year.  They felt empty once we learned to appreciate this ritual.  Some nights end with food on the floor, and us sighing, well maybe tomorrow it will go better.  But more nights than most, my husband and I are left speechless at the table at how God is working in our family.  Give it a try!

  1. Highs and Lows
  2. Scripture
  3. Talk about it – application
  4. Prayer
  5. Bless each other.

For more support, and to read to companion book, visit www.

Pastor Carrie Antczak,   United Methodist Church of Berea

Working with Older Adults

So you’ve been asked to work with the older adults in your church or community.   Kids are fun, but who wants to work with older adults who may be older than your parents or grandparents?    Aren’t they always sick or upset with something?      There are lots you can do with kids, but what can I do with senior adults?

I started senior exercise in a former church.    You may be asking what this has to do with spiritual formation and why in a church?       We always started with sharing joys and concerns.    I used simple stretching exercises from the National Institute of Aging     We did lots of balance exercises and we walked in the sanctuary or in the halls of the church.    We closed with a lectio divina and a prayer.      Our group became a support for each other.    We checked up on folks who did not attend.  And we prayed for each other.

I’ve learned volumes from working with senior adults, but the most important lesson that I’ve learned is to listen and learn.

Rev. Linda McCowen

Retired deacon

Lenten Devotional Calendars

As we move into Lent, a great gift has been shared with us by Rev. Kathy Wadsley, a deacon friend who has served here in East Ohio with us.  She has created coloring calendars for Lent Year B that we are able to print off and use for free.  These coloring calendars are available at  Click on the link and it will take you there.   Thank You , Kathy, for the wonderful gift!

Cyber-bullying Resources

In the Resource Packet for Safe Sanctuaries provided by the conference, it is suggested in the social media section to provide training on cyber-bullying. It is stated:

“We shall not engage in, encourage or condone cyber-bullying. Every children’s ministry and youth ministry group, and adult volunteer training session is encouraged to include in its teaching a session on the types and consequences of cyber-bullying, including how to identify it and how to report it.”

Our Media Center has some good resources to help accomplish this task. I will highlight a few here, but there are several more you may want to preview.

Cyber Bully published by Landmark Media, Inc.
Cyber Bully exposes the most epic struggle in the digital age. By exploring the complicated dynamics behind cyber bullying, Cyber Bully describes the impact and outcomes of advanced technology and human nature in a lawless, new social frontier. Told through the stories of victims, bullies, and experts, Cyber Bully reaches past the headlines to describe what makes cyber bullying a threat to our national and global social fabric.

Stop Bullying with Mike Hall
Bullies bully because they feel a lack of control, most often because of what is happening to them, or around them, at home. They take frustration out on others. This is when bullying often gets physical. Or, they feel superior to others. These are the kids who use social media to bully. They may call it “making fun,” but it isn’t. There are two ways to respond that aren’t good. First, you can retreat into yourself, get lonely, depressed. Or, you can become angry, get violent, “give them what’s coming.” Make them feel as bad as you do. Don’t!!
Instead, Mike Hall teaches kids “The Four C’s”…. How to remain Calm, Get Connected, Become Confident, and Learn to Compliment the Bully. These lessons are invaluable and have changed the lives of kids!!
Mike Hall speaks to about two hundred audiences of kids each year on the topic of bullies and bullying. He is a nationally recognized expert in the field with twenty years of experience as a mentor and coach. Visit his website at

Contact Susan in the Media Center to take a look.