Dis-abilities? Wellness, children and young people, and the church.

Dis-abilities? Wellness, children and young people, and the church.


How do we support children and young people who have a spectrum of physical and mental health needs and disabilities? This is a challenge faced by many of those involved in delivering youth and community work through churches and Christian organisations.

We have organised a training day that will provide an opportunity to look at some specific issues faced by children and young people with physical and mental health needs and disabilities. It will also explain the Scottish legislative framework and explore how we might offer a more welcoming and inclusive church environment for such children, young people and their families. Understanding the language of ‘wellbeing’ and GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) from the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will help you to engage with colleagues and partners from social services and other bodies that have a role in supporting children and young people in their communities. You will leave with practical ideas for making the environments in which you meet children and young people more welcoming and supportive.

The morning sessions will be led by Fiona Williams, who works as an Educational Psychologist for Glasgow City Council Education Services. She will speak in two sessions:
* Getting It Right For Every Child and young person in Scotland: the potential contribution of church workers
* Psychological issues facing young people: what can I do?

Afternoon seminars will include the following topics:
* The language- and communication-friendly church
* The socially- and emotionally-friendly church
* The accessible church
* Supporting those with mental health issues

We want to encourage you to bring a team of staff and volunteers from your church, and so we are offering a three for the price of two policy on the tickets.

We will be running this event on Friday 28th April from 10am – 4pm at Stirling Baptist Church, 67 Murray Place, Stirling FK8 1AU (the planned event in Glasgow on 29th April has been postponed).

Lunch and refreshments are included in the conference ticket price.

Book now.

Residential Youth Work – 125 years ago and now!

Residential Youth Work – 125 years ago and now!


Have you heard of the ‘Fresh Air Fortnight’?  Recently, our business manager has been going through the old archives of the organisations that formed the Glasgow United Evangelistic Association (GUEA), of which the BTI (Bible Training Institute), which after various iterations became SSCM, was one.

BTI was launched in 1892, and was “not intended to compete with the various theological halls where students are trained for the ministry, but for the practical instruction of Christian workers, both men and women, so as to qualify them for efficient service in the home or foreign field.”  The formation of BTI followed as a natural progression from the children’s and youth work that had been carried out for the preceding two decades.  This included ‘The Children’s Sabbath Dinner’ which commenced in 1874 and the ‘Glasgow Poor Children’s Fresh Air Fortnight’ started in 1884.

Fresh Air Fortnight

The Fresh Air Fortnight was established in 1884, during Queen Victoria’s reign, only 4 years after school attendance for 5-10 year olds was made compulsory.  In an age when almost all the homes in Glasgow were lit by candles, oil or gas and all heating was produced by burning fossil fuels in an open fire, the pollution levels were high.  It is no wonder then that in the 1890 funding appeal the GUEA wrote: “Those of you who live in Glasgow, live in comfortable homes, in healthy parts of the city, or in its suburbs; and yet it is necessary for your health that you go for a month or two in summer to the coast or country.  If you require this change, how much more do those poor children – living, many of them, in unhealthy localities and in hovels not worthy of the name of home – need, at least, a fortnight where they can be out of sight of Glasgow’s smoke and breathe the pure air of the country”.

In 1889, 3,531 children travelled to country villages (many of which have radically urbanised since then) such as Chryston, East Kilbride, Garelochead and Houston for at least a fortnight.  This investment of £2,073 (approximately £250,000 in today’s terms, never mind the bundles of clothing, hats and boots) was viewed as an act of social justice, not merely a holiday for free.  Even then, they realised that the Victorian urban smog was a factor in early deaths and therefore giving the children access to fresh air had health benefits that could potentially lengthen their lives.

Without access to fresh air, the children, over 600 or which living in single parent families or kinship carers, were being condemned to an early death.  Those involved in donating, volunteering or hosting the children were doing so either out of a sense of justice or as a response to their Christian beliefs.   They believed that these ‘poor children’ did not deserve to be condemned to early death sentence and therefore this was a very practical response to Jesus’ command to love one another, and by the time of the First World War had become so established that they owned 12 properties for the purpose.

Residentials today

Over 125 years later, the context is quite different.  Pollution may still exist in Glasgow, but this is vastly reduced in comparison to the 1880s.  The average family does not tend to go on a holiday from Glasgow to East Kilbride, but rather those families who can afford it will travel abroad to Western Europe or beyond.  Likewise, charities such as ‘Cash for Kids’ have replaced the ‘Fresh Air Fortnight’ as being the local charity of choice in the local media.

Despite this there are still Christian agencies providing residential experiences for young people.  Changes in legislation, in attitudes towards residential experiences and to the welfare system mean that there is not a need for the ‘Fresh Air Fortnight’ as it was originally conceived, But the original rationale is still there.

I will offer a snapshot of three local organisations that provide residential experiences for young people that otherwise would not be able to afford it: Junction 12, local YMCAs and theGKExperience.

Junction 12 is a charity based in the east end of Glasgow that works with young people who live in areas of social deprivation.  It “aims to establish and develop caring, nurturing relationships with 10-18 year olds in the east end of Glasgow and to enable them to make positive and healthy choices in every area of their lives” (www.junction12.org.uk).  In order to do this, a key feature of their work is to arrange residential experiences for the young people.  These include Easter camps, summer holidays and weekend camps, all of which are run in connection with SU Scotland.  These residential experiences provide the fresh air experience, however they do much more through providing activities and games where they learn social skills in a fun way as well as having the chance to hear the Christian message.

Charities such as Junction 12 work in similar areas of deprivation as the Fresh Air Fortnight and take young people to similar areas of the countryside not far from Glasgow.  The style of residential more closely resembles that of the 1910s rather than 1880s, as they tend to go away to centres rather than family homes and have a very structured timetable.  Likewise the inclusion of a specific Christian message would also more closely like that of the 1910s.

Whilst local YMCAs work with young people from a similar background, they are more likely to provide overseas residential experiences. These allow young people to explore the world and broaden their thinking about how things are done in other places.  In order to prove their validity to those who may doubt their worth, these residentials tend to be themed focussing on areas like leadership skills or being an effective board member.

This approach to residentials is similar to the Fresh Air Fortnight only in that it provide a residential experience that is on par with those from a middle-class background.  Saying that, the emphasis on the empowerment of young people and their ability to equip with skills that could be transformative for later life, are elements that were lacking in the approach 125 years ago.

Working with young people over a sustained period of time in their local settings and then allowing the outdoor residential and wilderness experience to help them to thrive, is the model which underpins the work of theGKexperience.  The young people come from areas such as Ruchazie, Blackhill and Milton in Glasgow which again would be classed as areas of multiple deprivation.  Young people love the outdoor experience even if it is a bit scary – it helps them to bond, to trust and to thrive. As young people share their experiences, they do not just try out new things but also experience community in a more profound way.  TheGKexperience approach provides a similar wilderness experience as those of the Fresh Air Fortnight and having that community experience is one that would resemble the homely feel of the family home.

Whilst I have tried to emphasise some of the potential differences of these three organisations, it should be noted that some of these are slightly artificial.  Whilst each model is different, each has its merits and their value can be seen in the lives of the young people who return enthused, invigorated and energised.

Graeme McMeekin

Preparing for Adoption

Preparing for Adoption


For those who know me well, you will know that I am part of a church that has recently welcomed adopted children into its midst.  The charity Home for Good (launched by the Evangelical Alliance) has labelled this Sunday ‘Adoption Sunday’.  Therefore this post aims to provide a theological rationale for why Christians might be involved in adoption and how churches can prepare for welcoming adopted children into the wider church family.

There are many reasons why children may enter our care system. For some it may be due to the death of parents, for others they may be the victims of abuse, and for others the birth parents or other family members may not have the skills or ability to provide a safe environment.  In any of these cases, the child is essentially orphaned (often translated in the Bible as fatherless) as there is no-one deemed able to provide the appropriate environment of safety, care and wellbeing for the child.

Throughout both testaments in our scriptures we see the care of widows and orphans as a recurring theme.  These include:

  • Their care as a form of religion that is acceptable to God (James 1:27)
  • Looking after orphans as a reason to be respected by others (Job 29:12 & 31:6-8)
  • We are commanded not to take advantage of them (Exodus 22:22) but rather to provide for them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), defend them and uphold their cause (Psalm 82:3)

In addition, we are given an image of God as a father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) who sustains them (Psalm 146:9 & 10:14).  Likewise, we are also given examples of people like Mordecai whom, “when [Esther’s] father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her as if she were his own daughter.” (Esther 2:7)

Given such an emphasis, you might assume that adoption is endorsed, if not encouraged, within the scriptures.  However, this is not necessarily the case.  Within the Jewish tradition, legal adoption, the legal process by which adoptive parents become as if the child was born to them as birth parents, is not recognised[1].  Such a legal process is thought to separate the children from their genetic familial ties, whereas Jewish law states that that the status of birth parents is permanent.  In contrast long-term fostering, which still acknowledges biological parenthood but enables others to be the primary caregiver, is both recognised and honoured and may even be classed as “special, sacred, a manifestation of holiness, and covenantal.[2]

Whilst the Christian and Jewish traditions are clearly linked and share a number of similarities, Christians take a different approach.  If we read the birth accounts in the gospels, the most extensive of which are in Matthew and Luke, we encounter Mary who “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:18).  Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife and to take on all the parental rights and responsibilities of the child (Jesus), including naming him and raising him as his own.  In essence, Joseph adopts Jesus.

Also in the New Testament, we ourselves are given the designation of children of God[3] with all the associated rights and responsibilities[4] as if we are born of God[5].  Given this, Christians might be expected to have some empathy with those who are adopted and to care for them, in much the same way as those who are Jewish are expected to have empathy for foreigners in their land as they were once foreigners exiled in other lands.

Due to our own adopted status and being followers of Jesus, Christians have good grounds to both endorse and encourage adoption, but the question begs how we might do this practically in our congregations.  The following are a number of suggestions from the experience of one congregation, to which many more could be added:

  1. Release the adoptive parents from other responsibilities

It may be obvious to state that adoptive parents are going through significant life adjustments; in practice the rest of the congregation also needs to adapt in order to release the adoptive parents from other responsibilities.  Even before the children arrive, the new parents have a lot of their time taken up with preparation groups, meetings (e.g. with social workers, health professionals, educational professionals, foster parents and perhaps even birth parents) and even decorating bedrooms etc.  Therefore it is important to speak with them well in advance of any adoption and be realistic about what Church responsibilities need to be taken on by others at the different stages of the adoption process.

  1. Offer practical support

Throughout the process there are lots of opportunities to offer practical support; however the prospective adoptive parents may be too shy or reserved to ask.  In adoption, children might arrive with an array of toys and clothes, whilst others could arrive with virtually nothing.  As a result, such practical support might include financial support, providing second hand furniture, clothes or toys, assistance in decorating or building flat-packed furniture, or even providing a haven with a cup of tea.  As each situation is very different, it is worthwhile the church asking someone who is close to the family to be a liaison for them in order to establish what is needed and then on their behalf mobilise others.

  1. Avoid the tilted heads and cheesy grins

The church may have known about, and been praying for, the family’s adoption journey for many months, if not years.  Therefore the church shares in the joys of the forming of this new family, but this needs to be done sensitively.  It is often inappropriate to make announcements from the pulpit welcoming this new adopted family as this may make the family feel more awkward (especially if they are not used to attending church).  Likewise, there is a tendency for members of the congregation to stare at the family with their heads tilted to one side and a cheesy grin (often accompanied with a silent ‘Awww’).  Whilst in one sense the family may be delighted that the church are sharing in this journey, it can also make them feel very self-conscious.

  1. Flexibility in children’s work

Children who are adopted may come from a range of backgrounds and have just undergone significant trauma, even if it is simply in moving from foster care to new adoptive parents.  Such trauma can mean that their social, emotional or cognitive skills might not be at the same level as their age peers.  As most churches divide their children’s work into different age categories, this means that the child might not actually be at the same stage as others their age and flexibility needs to be exercised.  After some time with the children, the adoptive parents will have a sense of what they can cope with or not and therefore it is worth asking them which level may be best for the children, if indeed it is appropriate for them to participate at all.

  1. Don’t expect to the family to regularly attend

Having journeyed with the adoptive parents on the adoption journey, there is an implicit expectation for the family to attend regularly at church.  Whilst the family may wish to, there may be a host of reasons why this may not be helpful.  It may be that the children are not used to large gatherings such as church.  The children may have social, emotional or behavioural challenges which might mean they are a distraction to others.  If a parent is employed during the week then the weekends become a very precious time to be spent bonding with the child and church services may not be conducive to this.

  1. Pray for them

Adoption is a significant life change for parents and children alike and can be a trying and difficult time.  It is important then that the congregation is encouraged to pray for them privately and, if appropriate, in prayer meetings.

These are just some suggestions in order to start the thought process. This Adoption Sunday, it is worth asking what changes your church has to make in order to welcome adoptive families into your midst.

Graeme McMeekin

[1] Broyde, M J, ‘Adoption, Personal Status, and Jewish Law’ in Jackson TP (Ed.), 2005 The Morality of Adoption: Social-Psychological Theological, and Legal perspectives. Cambridge: Eerdmaans. p129
[2] Broyde, 2005: 139
[3] John 1:12; Romans 8:14-19 & 9:8; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:5; 1 John 3:1-2
[4] Galatians 4:5-7; Romans 8: 14-19
[5] 1 John 3:9

Identity formation for all ages?

Identity formation for all ages?


Identity formation is considered one of the key elements of youth work.  As young people progress on the journey from dependence to interdependence, they are engaged in a process of trying to either find or establish their identity.  Whether this identity is ingrained in their very nature or something established by their social circumstances is an often debated subject. But it is unlikely that this is an either/or discussion, as both nature and nurture are likely to be determinants in the process.  There can be no doubt that our social circumstances do influence our perception of ourselves and how others perceive us, whether this is where we live, our family, our experiences, etc.

The reason why we associate identity formation with young people is probably due to the influence of Erik Erikson’s work on developmental psychology.  Erikson argued that humans (particularly in Western culture) develop through eight stages in a somewhat linear fashion.  He argues that during this period of adolescence we attempt to find our own identity, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issues.  If we do not successfully negotiate this stage, then we will experience some form of role confusion.  The youth worker often has a key role to play in this process of assisting the young person to understand themselves, whether this be providing opportunities to form new interests such as sports or music, assisting in spiritual formation, work around sexual identity, or engaging in political discussions.

However, we should not just limit identity formation to an adolescent process.  Our identity is constantly changing.  Some of this change is caused by a change in our social circumstances.  Marriage, parenthood, illness/disability, commencement of studies, retirement or moving house may result in us becoming a spouse, a parent, disabled, a student, a pensioner or a migrant.  Each of these will affect our perception of ourselves and the perception others have of us.

Likewise, it is not just our social circumstances that result in a continual identity formation. Our values and beliefs are also constantly changing.  As we interact with the world around us – whether through what we watch on TV, the people we meet, or the things we read – our values and beliefs change as we interpret the information and form our opinions.  This is not a new phenomenon and some interpreters claim that this is what Jesus was referring to when he said “The eye is the lamp of the body.” (Matt 6:22 NET).  Nonetheless, it can provide for interesting situations, for example when you meet up with someone for the first time in a long time and both of you have a perspective of one another which is rooted in who you each used to be, and rather than taking into account how values, attitudes and opinions have changed in that time.

The early Christians had a similar experience.  David Horrell, in his book Solitarity and Difference[1], studies how the early followers of Jesus created a group or social identity, which is their outworking of a change in identity through an encounter with the Christian gospel.  He notes that “the identity of a group according to social identity theory has cognitive, emotional, and evaluative dimensions, and is further defined by ‘norms’ that stipulate ‘a range of acceptable (and unacceptable) attitudes and behaviours’ for members of the group.  Moreover, distinctions drawn between ingroup and outgroup members serve to enhance a positive – and necessarily comparative – sense of group identity.” (p92)

For these early followers, they embarked on a process of forming a group identity that was to some extent distinct from the Jewish, Greco-Roman and other cultures from which they came from, but which at the same time was not hostile to them.  An example of this can be seen in Romans, where Paul addresses the Jewish Christians in chapters 1-7 (see 2:17) highlighting that they are children of Abraham through faith, not by obedience to law which is not open to the non-Jewish followers of Jesus.  And then in chapters 9-13 he appears to address the Christians who do not come from a Jewish background, highlighting the rich heritage of the Jewish faith and their interaction with YHWH (God) (e.g. 9:4-5).

For Christians today, we still wrestle with this concept of identity formation and how we continue to be shaped by the Christian gospel.  Our Christian identity and associated values,should not be static, but should be constantly transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).  Such a continual renewal should result in our reflection on our theology (our understanding of God and how He interacts with the world) and either cause us to revise our theological positions or re-affirm them anew.  Theological reflection is therefore a response to our continual encountering of the Christian message and should both shape our identity and our practice.

Likewise, the other features of our identity will affect how we engage and respond to the Christian message.  Whether we are a spouse, a parent, disabled, a student, a pensioner or a migrant will affect how we both interpret scripture and the Christian message, as well as how we practice it in our worship, mission and discipleship.  Therefore, no single model of church is likely to suit everyone and there is a need to create space for a variety of ways of worshipping, doing mission and discipling each other.  The question for us as a church is how we might facilitate and equip people for this.

Graeme McMeekin
Vice Principal

A number of programmes are commencing over the next few months.  If you would like to know more, please complete our online Intent to Study enquiry form, stating which course or programme you are interested in. You can also call the office on 0141 552 4040.  Courses/Programmes starting in the next few months include:

[1] Horrell DG (2005), Solidarity and Difference: A Contemporary Reading of Paul’s Ethics, London: T&T Clark

Pam Mellstrom appointed as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager

Pam Mellstrom appointed as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager


In response to high levels of student demand for our new courses, SSCM has appointed Pam Mellstrom as Youth and Community Work Programme Manager. Working alongside the school’s Vice-Principal Graeme McMeekin, Pam will be responsible for the oversight and management of all student placements and tutoring for the new BA(Hons) in Theology (Youth and Community). She will also oversee and manage our SQA-accredited courses, which currently include an HNC in Working with Communities, an HNC in Childhood Practice (which is suitable for those involved in children’s and family ministry in churches), and a PDA in Youth Work.

Pam currently works as Project Manager for Linlithgow Young People’s Project, a community based youth project in Linlithgow. She has a BA in Educational Studies from Strathclyde University and a BA in Informal and Community Education from YMCA George Williams College. She has previously worked as a placement mentor / supervisor on the BA(Hons) in Youth and Community Work in Applied Theology offered by International Christian College, and as a tutor for SSCM on our HNC Working with Communities course and for YMCA George Williams College.

Pam lives with her husband Phill and two children in Falkirk and has been an active part of St John’s Church in Linlithgow for the past 15 years, where she is part of the wider teaching team.

Pam said “The youth work sector in Scotland has seen many changes in the past decade and needs youth work practitioners who are well trained, experienced and have the skills to work with young people in both church and community settings. The Youth and Community work degree and SQA qualifications are designed to equip students to meet all of these demands and I am delighted to be joining the team.”

Graeme McMeekin, the college’s Vice-Principal, said “Pam’s appointment is a great addition to the Youth and Community work staff team and adds a wealth of experience and knowledge to the programme. Her experience as a practitioner, manager and leader in youth work in Scotland provides a rich resource for students to learn from.”

Richard Tiplady, SSCM Principal, added “We are delighted that the levels of demand for and applications to the Youth and Community work degree, which is delivered on behalf of Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, have required us to create this new post. Pam’s experience in managing and overseeing youth and community work practice in a Christian context will be invaluable in helping us to provide a first-class educational and training experience for all our students”.

Teaching Children or Teaching Children?

Teaching Children or Teaching Children?


I have a confession to make. Over the last couple of years I have undergone a conversion experience.  This should not be a surprise, because as Christians we should always be going through a process of conversion and change to be more Christlike. But, if we are honest with ourselves, after turning to Christ we tend to go through a rapid process of change and conversion which over time seems to slow down and in many cases comes to a halt.  This particular conversion experience is noteworthy for me because it relates to the role of children in the Church and is a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

When I started in youth work, I was a passionate advocate that young people should be active participants in the Church, not just in the sense of having a sense of belonging but also in the sense of being part of the decision-making, influencing the direction of the Church and being involved in the various ministries of the Church – praying for people, leading services, etc.  However, whilst I had a firm commitment to this level of participation for the young people (roughly defined as 11+), I had a contrasting view about children (under 11s).  My view of children was more like the ’empty vessel’ approach, that children were not active contributors but rather empty vessels to be filled with biblical knowledge at an age-appropriate level.

These differing and somewhat contrasting views make no sense.  I am not sure what effect I thought that puberty, or the transition to Secondary School, would have that would transform these children from passive recipients of ministry into active contributors to the life and worship of the Church.

  • Are these children not also made in the image of God and demonstrating something of who He is (Gen 1:27)?
  • Are these children not supposed to be our role models (Matt 18:2-3)?
  • In the Bible, are we not given the example of Eli, who having just been weaned, was “serving the Lord under the supervision of Eli the priest” (1 Samuel 2:11)?

In many of our churches we do not provide opportunities for children to minister/serve, but rather we are often scrambling around looking for volunteers who can serve them, and such volunteers are often destined to do this by running programmes in a separate hall away from the rest of the congregation.

For most of us as adults, this has suited us.  It means that we can worship in a passive way during our church services, sitting quietly during prayers, sitting listening to sermons, and only speaking when singing a hymn or saying a piece of liturgy where we simply say/sing what is prescribed for us.  If as part of our worship together we engage children as active contributors and worshippers, asking them for their testimonies of what God is doing, etc, or their interpretation on particular passages, then maybe the children can be teaching us rather than assuming that we need to be teaching children.

In my local church, we are in what may be considered an enviable situation. In the next couple of months it is anticipated that we may have more children than adults attending our church on a Sunday morning.  In this situation, where more people are leaving the service than are staying, we may need to re-think how we arrange our services and so consider our children as ‘teaching children’ rather than teaching children elsewhere.

At SSCM, we have a commitment to supporting work with children and are developing a number of new programmes.  From September 2016, we are planning to offer an HNC in Childhood Practice.  This programme can be taken either over one year (attending classes all day on a Thursday) or over two years (attending Thursday mornings only) and is suited for anyone who is either currently working with or in the future hopes to work with children, either as a career or as a volunteer.  For more information, please complete our ‘Intent to Study’ form, stating you are interested in the HNC in Childhood Practice, or call the office on 0141 552 4040.

Youth Ministry = Making Disciples?

Youth Ministry = Making Disciples?


The words of Great Commission in Matthew 28 should have a particular motivation for all Christians. However, for many of us involved in youth work or youth ministry, it is the principal purpose of our work:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20

What does it actually mean to make disciples?  The word mathētēs (μαθητής), which we translate into ‘disciples’, is better translated into everyday English as ‘learners’, and so we may read Jesus’ commission as “go and make learners of all nations …”  In practice, however, most of us translate this passage as “go and teach all nations”.  But anyone who has been involved in any form of teaching for a significant amount of time will know that just because teaching is happening, it doesn’t mean that any learning is taking place.

Peter Jarvis, an adult learning specialist describes learning as:

“The combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person – body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, meaning, beliefs and senses) – experiences social situations, the content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person.” (Jarvis, 2010: 39)

It is entirely possible to teach young people, or people of any age, by exposing their minds to knowledge about Jesus and the Gospel, but this does not mean that such knowledge is ‘integrated into their biography’, nor that they are a disciple.  The process of ‘making disciples/learners’ is not focussed around our teaching, although it may include teaching, but is much more than that.

If I want someone to become a learner of physics, then I need to able to inspire them about physics, put them into situations where they have a sense of wonderment about physics and experience something of what physics can do.  Likewise, if I want someone to become a learner/disciple of who God is, then my role is to organise activities etc. in which they can experience what God is doing and allow them to be awe-struck at who God is – His power, His love and His character.  The best way to do this is to empower them to be missional.

In Luke 9: 1-6, Jesus sent out the learner/disciples, after giving them power and authority, to be missional and tell others of the good news.  It is clear from the passage that the disciples did not know everything, in fact immediately after they exercise a lack of faith in the miracle of the feeding of the crowds with five loaves and two fish,  however they did go out and came back excitedly reporting about what had happened on their journeys.

As those involved in Christian youth work or youth ministry, sometimes we spend too much time ‘teaching young people’ rather than ‘making learners/disciples’, continually filling their heads with more and more knowledge about God, and not spending enough time allowing them to experience who God is and empowering them to reach out to others.

There are a range of courses in youth and community work that you can study through SSCM, including:
–          PDA in Youth Work (Part-time, next intake 21st April 2016)
–          HNC Working with Communities (Part-time, next intake Sept 2016)
–          BA Theology, Youth & Community (Full-time, next intake Sept 2016)

Baptism & Youth Ministry

Baptism & Youth Ministry


Today, I will be attending the baptism of one of our HNC students leading me to reflect a little bit on the role of baptism (whether as infants or as believers) in youth ministry.


Baptism is one of the key sacraments in most Churches, but yet is rarely understood and its significance is rarely discussed as we are often anxious about getting into discussions of whether baptism should be done as infants (paedobaptism) or on a confession of faith (credobaptism).  However the Paedobaptism/Credobaptism debate disguises the significance of this act.


When discussing baptism in reference to the Bible most people will either refer to Jesus’ baptism (e.g. Matthew 3: 13-17), the Great Commission (“… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit …” Matthew 28: 18-19) or examples of baptism in the book of Acts (e.g. the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8).  Such New Testament references lead us to arguments about the importance of Baptism because (a) Jesus did it; (b) we are told to do it; and (c) the disciples gave us examples of doing it.  Each of which are important but to some extent miss the point of what baptism is about.


To understand more fully what is being represented in baptism, we have to go to Joshua 3 & 4.  This is the story of Joshua and the Israelites coming to the Jordan River, having spent years lost in the wilderness following their captivity in Egypt.  As the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant reached the Jordan River the water cut off upstream and the Israelites were able to cross over into Jericho safely, into the Promised Land.  The Jordan was symbolic, as it represented moving from the wilderness into the fulfilment of God’s promises.  This significance was not lost to the Gospel writers who were recording the events of Jesus (a version of the name Joshua meaning ‘the Lord saves’) with whom God proclaims at his baptism that Jesus is God’s beloved son with whom he is well pleased, and who came to fulfil God’s promises of a messiah (rather than of a promised land in Joshua’s time) such as the one made to David through Nathan:

“I declare to you that the Lord will build a dynastic house for you!  When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He will build me a house, and I will make his dynasty permanent.  I will become his father and he will become my son. I will never withhold my loyal love from him, as I withheld it from the one who ruled before you.  I will put him in permanent charge of my house and my kingdom; his dynasty will be permanent.” (1 Chronicles 17:10-14)

Given all this, what are we doing when we are conducting a baptism:

  • We are highlighting that the same God who saved the Israelites in the Old Testament, is the same God who was revealed in the life, death & resurrection of Jesus, and is the same God who saves us and works in our lives.
  • We are proclaiming that ‘the Lord saves’.  As Christians, we believe that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are saved from a life that ends in death, but rather we have a hope that we will be resurrected, grounded in the resurrection of Jesus.
  • We are acknowledging that we are neither captives (such as the Israelites in Egypt), nor are we lost in a wilderness, but rather we have been set free by God and are walking in faith (like across the Jordan) in fulfilment of his promises.
  • We are declaring that the baptisee is included in the fulfilled promised, that is that they are included in the kingdom of God (in the same way as those crossing over into the promised land were to be part of the kingdom established there).

In relation to youth ministry, whether our Church conducts infant baptism (paedobaptism) or a believer’s baptism (credobaptism), we have a responsibility to educate the young people on what baptism may mean, the responsibilities and hopes of being part of the kingdom of God and how baptism includes them in the life and work of the Church.

For many young people who feel like they are in a wilderness or have been held captive by peer pressure, mental health issues, baggage from the past etc., then this can be quite a liberating experience, and if they are preparing for baptism themselves can be a proclamation of hope in which they can leave many of the things that have held them back at the other side of the Jordan.

Making a Deep Impact on the Frontiers!

Making a Deep Impact on the Frontiers!


At the end of January each year, a Christian Youth Work conference called ‘Deep Impact’ takes place in Aviemore.  Approximately 300 full-time, part-time and voluntary youth workers venture the potentially wild and wintery conditions into the beautiful surrounding near the pistes of Aviemore in order to retreat, re-energise and be inspired in their Christian youth work service.


This year (22nd-24th January 2016), SSCM’s involvement is slightly different.  There will be no seminars this year, but instead there will be a series of learning streams and we will be partnering with ROC (Redeeming our Communities), the Message Trust and Forge Scotland in order to deliver a learning stream on Frontier Youth Ministry.  This learning stream draws on how Jesus looked at discipleship, working with those who had not even considered his teachings and engaging them in what would be considered at the time to be an unorthodox discipleship programme.  This learning stream will be filled with stories of how people across Scotland (and beyond) are reaching out to young people who would not normally have contact with the Church sharing both the successes and the frustrations.


There will also be an opportunity to meet with Graeme McMeekin from SSCM to hear more about the new BA(Hons) Theology: Youth & Community programme that is being launched this September.


Bookings close on Monday 11th January, therefore if you want to come along then you need to book quickly here and we look forward to seeing you there.

New Year Resolution – Study Youth Work!

New Year Resolution – Study Youth Work!


Last week, I was standing at the start line of a 5k run and a friend who was standing next to me asked “what is your goals for next year?  My friend was referring to setting my running goals, e.g. was I going to beat a particular PB (Personal Best) time for a 5k? Was I going to complete my first Ultra-marathon? Was I going to run 2016 miles in 2016?  However the question is much greater!


As an Ultra-marathon runner (running 60-100 miles at a time), he was very aware of the need to set goals, targets and objectives in order to improve his ability.  Aiming to run longer, further or more often means that our muscles, joints and bones adapt in order to achieve more, however if we do not aim for development, then at best we are simply going to remain at the status quo, and at worst lose some of our skills and ability.


The New Year is traditionally an ideal time to set these new goals and objectives, however they are not restricted to physical development, they include spiritual and mental development such as new books, new courses and new routines which shape the new you!


Could the new ‘you’ be a youth worker or community worker?  If so then one potential goal would be to sign up to study a new course.  This could be a:

If you are thinking about further study then please complete our (no obligation) online form and we will explain the process to you and answer any questions you have.