Meet John Sharp the new Boys Brigade director for Scotland

Son of the manse John Sharp has just become the new director of the Boys' Brigade in Scotland. He shared his journey of faith with Jackie Macadam of Life and Work for the June edition of the magazine.

John Sharp
John Sharp in Jerusalem

Rooted in faith

“My older brother, Andrew, had a big part to play in me joining the BB.

"I remember him getting his uniform ready and was desperate to follow in his steps by joining the 2nd East Kilbride Company, which was based in my dad’s church. I was a member of the BB from the age of five and can safely say that it has played a significant role in my life.”

John Sharp, who took over as the Scottish Director for the Boys’ Brigade in April, fondly remembers the organisation's impact on his early life.

“A huge part of the BB for me was the development of soft skills. I’d go as far to say that it helped me perhaps more than formal education. From working in teams to personal confidence, I’ve got a lot to thank the BB for.”

John was brought up in a manse in East Kilbride, where his dad was a Church of Scotland minister.

“It was a really interesting upbringing with our house always feeling very busy with what seemed like a constant stream of visitors. I remember if we had a visitor from overseas, like a missionary partner from somewhere like Pakistan or Africa listening to them talk about their lives over dinner. It felt exciting and I think this certainly developed my interest in exploring the world,” he says.

“It was in my final year of studies where I took a module in international development which really sparked my interest in actually going overseas.

After graduating I volunteered in Malawi for eight months with a project supported by the Church of Scotland. I worked as a teacher in a secondary school in the north of the country which was an incredible, eye-opening experience.”

John Sharp
John Sharp with his daughters Rachel and Laura

World traveler

John’s interest in international development has continued throughout his career, which has included spells with the Irish Catholic overseas development agency Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland and SCIAF. He has worked in many different parts of the world, including Haiti, India, East Timor, Burundi, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Middle East.

“Each experience has allowed me to continue to learn a little bit more about the world, the struggles that face people on a daily basis, and what our response should be towards out neighbours both locally and globally. I do believe in social justice. I believe as a Christian we should be active in this way and help others when needed.”

Most recently he has been assistant director of the educational charity Project Trust, based on the Isle of Coll, which organises gap year voluntary placements for young people.

He says: “It has been extremely rewarding to be able to support young people as they began to learn more about themselves and the world around them, which has strong parallels with my new role at the BB.”

John Sharp in El Salvador
John Sharp in El Salvador

Faith journey

John ‘s family life is tied up with music and church. His wife Caroline, whom he met through the church, is a music instructor; and they have two daughters, Rachel and Laura.

We are a very close family and have the benefit of a very outdoor lifestyle. At the weekends we go for walks on the beaches and since we’ve been on the Isle of Coll, have taken full advantage of exploring our incredible natural surroundings. There are also no street lights on the island at night and this means I’ve managed to explore a new passion of photography, even catching the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights.

“Starting my new role with the BB means as a family we will be moving and we are keen to relocate within Argyll so we will can still have this beautiful part of the country.”

John’s faith journey has been a long one, starting with his upbringing and early life at his father’s church.

“My faith journey started growing up in a manse, meeting and spending time in our house with all those amazing and inspiring people who had given their lives over to Jesus.

“I made my own commitment in my teens, asking Jesus to come into my life. My mum and dad were obviously a huge impact and positive influence but it was very much my commitment to Jesus. I do owe a great deal to my parents, and am probably guilty of not sharing that with them often enough. Caroline and I hope we can be the guides to Rachel and Laura developing their own real faith in Jesus.

“Everything I’ve done in life has been rooted in my faith. My passion for social justice which grew from experiences in Malawi and the Middle East, is rooted in my faith.”

John Sharp with wife Caroline and daughters Rachel and Laura
John Sharp with wife Caroline and daughters Rachel and Laura

Listening and learning

Learning, staying fresh, is also important to him, and it’s something he hopes will continue in his new role.

“My focus will be on listening and learning from everyone in the BB family. From the five-year-old who has just pulled on their red jumper for the first time, to leaders who have been there for 55 years (or more). I want to ask the Anchor Groups why they joined and what makes them happy to be part of the BB. I want to ask the leaders about their own thoughts and reflections on where the BB has been and where they think it is going. It’s all about listening and learning and continuing the great work the BB is doing.

“I’ve already received lots of wonderful messages since my appointment was announced. To get that warmth from the BB family is really such a nice thing and very positive before I’ve even started.

“It’s also the 100th year of the Juniors, which I’m extremely excited about as I know there are big plans for celebrations throughout the year to mark this amazing milestone.

“I’m also looking forward to learning more about why the BB is as relevant today as it has ever been. The BB has such a big part to play helping young people navigate through life, and I can’t wait to be part of the family once again.”

See the story as first published and find more from Life and Work magazine