Talking Ministry: Christ cares

A Church of Scotland youth worker in Glasgow has spoken of "the absolute privilege" of working with young people, including helping to reduce violence and provide better opportunities for those growing up locally.

Youth team leader Neil Young next to the first piece of public art in Blackhill in 15 years painted by Rogue One.
Youth team leader Neil Young next to the first piece of public art in Blackhill in 15 years painted by Rogue One.

Neil Young, who is the youth team leader at St Paul's Church of Scotland in the north-east of the city, paid tribute to those he has walked alongside with over the last twenty years.

"I am not an expert on young people - young people are the experts on young people," he said.

"Anything that has worked has been because they're leading as they know what they're talking about.

"All I've ever known is young people wanting people to be interested in them, not in our agendas.

"Then we are able to tell them that God is even more interested in them, that they are made in the image of God and that God loves them."

Reflecting on his time at St Paul's, Mr Young, described the work done locally to help stop youth crime as the "biggest highlight" for the community.

He said "We used to have to take knives off young people as they came into the building to create a safe space - one of the first months we were here a kid came in with a 5cm gash in his head.

"We thought we're not putting up with this as a community and I managed to get funding to address this.

"What the young people wanted was something to do on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

The father of three said that the Church was able to support people over the long-term to help them to overcome sometimes difficult circumstances.

"One of the beauties of the church is we're not a three or six month project - we're here for the long-haul. God is eternal," he said.

"When all the other services are pulling out of our parish the only thing that's constant is God and the Church of Scotland.

"I love that aspect of it."

Mr Young, who is married to Libby, explained that his experience of youth work had taught him that it is "OK to fail" and it is important to listen.

What started as a job mainly doing school chaplaincy and running a youth club once a week has now expanded into a missional organisation with 17 full-time equivalent staff.

Amongst many different strands of work, St Paul's have also been involved with tackling food insecurity, a 'walking and wheeling' project to improve people's transport options, and running Bolt FM, Scotland's longest running youth radio station.

For many years St Paul's have been twinned with a congregation in Zambia, which has given young people the chance to visit Southern Africa and gain a fresh perspective.

"My faith shapes all of my life. Matthew 25 inspires my work, when it says in the Bible "for I was hungry and you fed me" in our parish, the Church is the lead organisation tackling this - Jesus told us very clearly this is what we need to do", Mr Young says.

"Let's go and walk alongside all people and show them that Christ cares. It's the absolute privilege of my ministry."

Each month throughout 2021, the Talking Ministry series will share a personal story from those serving in Christian ministry, as well as discernment resources filled with questions, prayers and reflections to help encourage your own reflection on how God might be calling you.

You can read Neil Young's full interview and access the resources for May on our Talking Ministry page.