Blackall Uniting Church in western Queensland has planted the seeds for a thriving youth ministry. Youth pastor Scott Walker speaks to Dianne Jensen.
Thursday night at the Blackall Uniting Church is youth group night, and youth pastor Scott Walker starts the evening by praying with the six regular attendees. The numbers have fluctuated over the last two and half years as the drought tightens its grip.
“An important thing that I’m learning about running any kids’ ministry out here is to be ready to adapt and change to meet the needs,” says Scott, who has been involved in youth ministry since high school. “Because it is such a small community sometimes all it takes is one family to move away and you have to completely re-think your youth ministry strategy.”
Scott attended Youthworks Bible College in Sydney and studied and worked as a graphic designer before returning to Blackall. He combines the youth pastor role with working on a local property and running the Design Hub with his wife Rachel.
“I grew up out here and I know what it’s like to grow up in a small town—the good and the not-so-good. God has put the young people out here on my heart so I wanted to come back and use my studies to serve God.”
As a parent of young children he knows how tough family life can be out west.
“Ongoing drought and the town in economic decline can cause stress for parents which in turn can cause stress for the kids. Employment is an issue as there aren’t many opportunities or options for jobs and most kids will have to move away from Blackall after they leave school to do extra study.”
Before starting the youth ministry program, Scott took the time to train local leaders.
“We met once a week and worked through a book that helped us shape how to best run our youth ministry. During this time we also did things like child safety training and getting blue cards. I believe it was spending this time in training and planning that has made our youth group such a success,” he says.
From its genesis the youth group has attracted kids from outside the church, with some becoming regular attenders at the Sunday afternoon Bible study and monthly evening youth service. The church hopes to start a play group as soon as they can find a leader.
“One of the biggest challenges is the lack of resources. People resources—we would welcome Christians who would like to move to Blackall and help with running children’s and youth ministries—and equipment resources,” says Scott.