“I want to see young people engaging in serving the church,” says Becky Dunphy.  “I was feeling quite burdened in my heart to try to find ways for them to get involved. But I was very reluctant to ask them to do specific things… because a lot of times young people are asked to do tasks like washing up or tidying the chairs and I didn’t want them to feel like they were getting left with all the rubbish jobs.”

Becky is the volunteer youth leader at Parkhead Church of the Nazarene in Glasgow, Scotland. She has attended the church for eight years, leading the youth for the last five. Becky has a burden for the ways that youth are integrated into serving the wider Church. Parkhead Youth is like any other church with a youth program, with outreach events to create a welcoming space for young people. They have more church-related meetings, and different types of social events, including meals, where the youth can come eat and ask questions about God, the Church, and Christianity.

Parkhead sits in one of the most deprived areas in all of Scotland, according to the Scottish government’s deprivation index. This creates many creative ways for the church to be active within its community. One way it has done this is through walk-through experiences, put on at Christmas and Easter.

During Christmastime, the youth suggested that they could plan an event where the participants could walk through the Christmas Story. They then split into teams of two and created stations, beginning with the journey to Bethlehem and finishing with the birth of Jesus. At each station, Becky explains, “the young person reads out and explains the part of the story that the station represents.” Different crafts and snacks were also available, all correlating with the specific story told. The Christmas walk-through experience was aimed at primary-aged kids, joined by relatives and the surrounding community.

Church attendees loved the walk-through experience so much that they wanted the youth to plan another for Easter. Church leaders had already planned an Easter event, but gave it over to the young people of the church when leadership found out the youth wanted to put on another walk-through. “Our church is very pro-youth,” Becky says. “We couldn’t do two things, so since the youth were keen they handed it over to them and let them run with it. The young people of Parkhead were eager to revise and improve their first event, and Becky noticed something change. “There had been a massive shift from a discipleship point from our young people,” she says, “as a collective group in terms of their faith.”

The team broke the Easter story down into its sections, from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection. One of the ways they revised the experience was to add more interactive elements at each station. At the Palm Sunday station, participants could decorate palm branches, writing Hosanna on them. The Last Supper included a quick snack with hummus, cheese, crackers, and juice. In the Garden of Gethsemane, attendees held a sword fight with rolled-up newspapers. At the Cross station, a young person and their dad made a small wooden cross that kids could carry, with a larger one set up for self-reflection. Kids were prompted to think about things that they were sorry about, and stuck stickers listing things they were thankful for on the cross.

“It was really nice to see how much thought these young kids were putting into the stickers they were sticking on the cross,” Becky says, “and it was really nice to see this done in such a child-like way.” At Jesus’ Tomb, children decorated eggs to place in the tomb, and they watched a reenactment of the women visiting the tomb. Again, while the event was intended for kids, people of all ages were welcomed and participated.

Students also learned how to improve the flow of their walk-through events, moving from a free-for-al, often muddled experience at Christmas, toward a guided group approach at Easter. This approach offered a more immersive time for all involved, allowing for reflection and greater understanding of the scripture and specific story that they were witnessing.

“These groups were mixed,” Becky says, “so there were people who didn’t know each other well—some of them from the church, some of them from the community. They were able to chat and get to know each other in a different kind of way.” She adds that the event “also had a couple of groups of older women that are very supportive of our young people, and they didn’t come with any children with them, but they had a lovely time and were so positive about the good time they were having and were the most vocal about how much they were enjoying themselves.”

Becky’s parents attended with her niece, grouped with a family that attends Parkhead’s “Kids Club,” but hadn’t really met anyone from the church before. Becky’s parents got to know the family better, her father helping one of the kids with crafts at a station. “It was really nice to see this event could break down some of those barriers,” Becky says.

At Parkhead, these events have been used as a way to break down the barriers within the community. Church leaders decided to invest in their youth and let them create something that held meaning for the young people and, ultimately, gave back to the whole church and community. In this way, the church is investing in creating leaders for the next generation of the wider church. Becky expressed her gratitude for the way the church gathered around the enthusiasm of the young people and propelled their idea into an event everyone could be proud of.

Parkhead plans to hold Christmas and Easter experiences next year too. The youth are already revising and working to find ways to bring this event to the wider community that surrounds the church.

written by Troy Vernier, Eurasia Region Volunteer 

photos shared with permission from Parkhead Youth Group