By the Rev Samantha Martell, curate of Droxford, Meonstoke, Corhampton and Exton
For many of the families who live in this area, Sunday morning isn’t the best time to bring children to church.
That’s one of the reasons we started our Messy Church on a Thursday afternoon after-school.
It involves exciting art and craft activities on a Biblical theme, a short act of worship and a hot meal.
It’s a perfect combination for parents, as the timings and activities are geared towards families’ needs.
Children can join in with whichever painting, gluing or creating activity they fancy – and there’s no need to rush home in time for tea.
We started organising these sessions once a month at Meonstoke C of E Infant School, last summer, and it’s been fantastic.
We might have 50 people, volunteers, parents and children, squeezed into the dining hall to try a variety of art and craft activities.
For their session on Noah’s Ark, families painted animal masks, made rainbow-coloured windmills and created paper boats.
Children splashed paint, glue and glitter around in a way they might not be able to do at home.
They left their creations to dry and moved into a classroom, so I could tell them the story of Noah’s Ark, with children providing the sound effects.
Meanwhile, other volunteers wiped tables, cleared away paper and paints, and set up pasta and jacket potatoes for the children’s tea.
It’s a brilliant way for us to get to know families in our villages.
Many of the children involved, or their siblings, actually go to Meonstoke Infant School, so it’s very convenient for them.
And they enjoy it so much, they often can’t wait to come back.
One of the principles behind doing Messy Church is that it isn’t a stepping stone towards going to church on Sunday – this is ‘church’ for those families.
We can do all the things you’d normally do in church – worship, prayer, looking at the Bible together, and getting to know people – in a way that is appropriate for children aged 11 and under.
Funnily enough, lots of the parents also seem to learn more about faith in this way too.
If you have children at the Valley Pre-School, Meonstoke Infant or Droxford Junior School who haven’t yet come along, we would love to see you on Thursday, March 7, from 3.30pm-5.30pm.
For more information, go to thebridgechurches.org.uk.