MSP praises work of Kirk's youth work volunteers

Aileen Campbell MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, paid tribute to the youth work volunteers within the Church, when she dropped in on a video call discussion on children's and youth ministry organised by Lanark Presbytery on Tuesday (25 August).

Child's hands playing with lego
The Scottish government minister, Aileen Campbell MSP, joined more than 450 children and youth leaders from across the Church of Scotland as a surprise special guest to discuss the challenge of youth work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish government minister joined more than 450 children and youth leaders from across the Church of Scotland as a surprise special guest to discuss the challenge of youth work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I know that you will all have been busy and you'll have all been doing an awful lot of try and keep young people engaged, updated, involved and looked after and looked out for, and I want to just say thank you for that," Aileen said.

"I know it's been incredibly tough for the youth work sector, and it's been tough for young people in particular these last few months, and it's also been tough for the voluntary sector, more generally.

"(In the Scottish Government) I have responsibility for faith groups and my officials, and I have been working very closely with a lot of our religious and faith leaders to try and navigate through the route map out of lockdown, which is not without challenge, but we've tried to endeavour to do it in as reasonable way as we can, ensuring that we keep people safe.

"If it hadn't been for the work and effort of so many of our volunteers then the country just simply wouldn't be where we are, trying to get our way through and navigate a path out of the restrictions of COVID."

‘It is clear the Church is still here, ready to serve our communities'

The evening, which was co-ordinated by Rev Bryan Kerr, Clerk for the Presbytery of Lanark, aimed to share discussion on children and youth ministry as lockdown restrictions ease across Scotland as a result of the pandemic.

"There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for our work with children and young people and, as we support congregations in the re-opening of church buildings we need to acknowledge that the way we did things in February of this year may not be the way we do things now to engage with our young people," Bryan said.

"There was a real sense of optimism and commitment from those who joined the event. Whilst there will be things that we can't do right now, there was a moment of sharing together, thinking of the exciting and creative ways in which we can get children and young people involved in our church families again.

"There are so many stories of congregations reaching out to children and young people throughout lockdown or, for example, working with schools as they begin to look seriously at the wellbeing of pupils.

"It is clear that the Church of Scotland is still here, ready to serve our communities and take the message of God to our children, young people and families."

Suzi Farrant, Young People and Young Adults Development Worker, agreed that this time offers new opportunities as well as challenges to those working in youth ministry.

"I think we need to embrace the opportunities that we've been given rather than having this mind-set of thinking that that everything is really difficult," Suzi added.

"We want to get back to our buildings, we want to do things how we've always done them. Let's maybe change our mind-set a wee bit and think about what are the opportunities that we've been afforded. What can we do differently now we've been given a wee bit of space to stop and think?"

‘A God-given opportunity to try new things'

Representatives from the Boys Brigade and Girls Brigade also joined in to share their thoughts on moving forwards into a ‘new normal' of youth ministry.

Caroline Goodfellow, Chief Executive of Girls' Brigade Scotland, encouraged children and youth leaders to remember to focus on "fun and fellowship and being yourself with your pals".

"No matter what, we will get there, but it will certainly be a different norm, it won't be what we did in the past. What's ‘aye been' has gone. It will be a new norm. I think I'm particularly buoyed up by the fact that I believe it will be a better norm that we will develop, because I do see this as a kind of God-given opportunity to try out new things and to do something different."

Alan Hunter, Training and Development Officer for The Boys' Brigade, said:

"We acknowledge that, obviously, there will be many challenges ahead as things continue to change and develop. As a mission partner for the Church we can, and need, to work together with churches to support and engage with young people, to enable them to live their lives to the full at such an important time for young people."

The Zoom event was recorded and is available to watch on YouTube.

To find out more about the measures the Church of Scotland is taking during this time as we gradually re-open our church buildings, please keep up to date with our COVID-19 guidance pages.