Why The Mess?

Guest post by Rick Bundschuh from Kauai Christian Fellowship

Editor’s Note: Rick is one of the coolest lunatics you’ll ever meet. We are proud to have him as a member of Team Interlínc, and as one of our WriteGroup contributors. His video of their Middle School retreat (you can see it here) is what prompted us to ask him to explain, “Why all the mess?” You’ll no doubt identify with his explanation!

I walked into the big room used by the Middle School every Wednesday night. There were feathers everywhere. There were feathers in the light fixtures, feathers on the shelves, feathers piled in the corners and feathers in the window screens. My first thought was, “It sure looks like someone (other than a goose or chicken) was having a load of fun!”

A certain part of youth ministry gets messy because messy means more fun.

Tie a donut on a string and have a contest to see who can eat it first. This could make a lot of crumbs, but it is really not all that messy. Take the same donut; dip it in chocolate syrup, and feed it to a partner lying on the floor and you now have “messy” with a capital M.

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The messy factor is what turns an okay stunt or game into something that kids talk about for a long time and one that they tell their friends about.

Of course messy doesn’t attract prissy girls or too cool guys—but it sure works great with the average Middle School monkey.

  • Getting messy is what mom won’t let you do at home, which makes it even more fun.
  • Getting a girl messy is the way that a Middle School guy shows affection.
  • Getting your friend messy is the way that you show brotherly love—in Middle School terms that is.
  • Getting messy makes for great movies, photos, and publicity on social media.
  • Getting messy makes for lots of laughter and even more mess.

Messy is part of the message that says to kids, “Hey, this Christian thing is wild, fun, and exciting!” It wins us the right to talk about the “abundant life” with credibility because, for a Middle School kid, the more mess you make, the more abundant life truly is!

And yes, messy can have some downsides. Someone has to clean up all that mess. Shaving crème stings the eyes. The chocolate handprints your cleaning crew missed will come back to haunt you in the form of a scolding by the non-messy lady from the Women’s ministry. A few killjoys may make noise about bad stewardship in the waste of noodles, feathers, shaving crème, cooking oil, etc. Or, you may have to get out the vacuum and go after the feathers that your cleaning crew didn’t see in their hurry to suck up eight pillowcases worth of down.

But messy is one of those things that adults have generally grown out of. We have forgotten the pure joy of rolling in mud, being lathered in a bath of Jello, or getting a pie in the face. We would never think of bobbing for Baby Ruth bars in a toilet filled with Mountain Dew, or rediscover the missile launching pleasure of a good old fashion food fight.

And in a way, that’s too bad.

But, making a mess in the name of Jesus is what we in youth work are called to do. Many of us take great pride in our, mess, uh, err, work!

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