Dave Phillips, PYNSW General Manager, visited Taree Presbyterian Church recently. Senior Minister Vaughan Smith was able to share about the exciting ways God is at work in their youth group.
Vaughan, his wife Allie and their four kids have been at Taree Presbyterian Church for the past four years. Vaughan grew up in Mudgee. As soon as he became a Christian while living in Sydney for university, he felt convicted about the need for rural gospel workers.
“From then on I thought, ‘Well, something’s got to be done about churches in rural areas that need to hear the gospel. People need in-depth Bible teaching,’’ Vaughan shares.
Until a few weeks ago, Taree Presbyterian Church had a total of two youth group leaders—Vaughan and one other. They now have seven leaders in total, which is a huge answer to prayer for Vaughan.
“God’s dropping people into our laps,” Vaughan says. “People are turning up at church going, ‘Hey, I really want to know more about Jesus. Can you help me do that?’”
Some people would find it challenging to lead a youth group and develop youth group leaders while also leading the church as a whole. Vaughan, however, is in his element.
“Early on, I was given some good advice about ministry where this person said, ‘Make sure you’ve always got energising ministries that are counteracting the more challenging ministries.’”
For Vaughan, that energising ministry is the youth group.
“Having a couple of kids become Christians recently has left me walking away going, ‘Wow, that’s exactly where God wants me to be in that moment where I’ve shared the gospel with someone that’s taken root.’”
The other thing that Vaughan loves about youth group ministry is that the wider church is becoming passionate about it as a valuable evangelistic opportunity.
Initially, Vaughan was concerned about what their church could offer local teenagers. Another church in Taree has been running a fairly large, established youth group for a number of years. But then he realised that a small youth group would be attractive to certain teens.
“The strength was that we were attracting kids who were a bit more introverted,” he explains. “They didn’t like the big, noisy youth group. We had kids there who wanted to get deeper into the Word… so it was a close-knit youth group. There was a real sense of unity about it. And then, of course, it started to grow because kids were like, ‘Yeah, this is really nice. I’m gonna bring some friends along.’”
As the youth group began to grow, Vaughan realised they would need more leaders. So he explained the situation to the church congregation.
“We said, ‘God’s doing amazing things—bringing kids along.’ So an older couple put their hands up and said, ‘Yeah, we’d love to serve and help.’ And then a younger couple also put their hands up. They’re relatively new Christians; very keen. And another fellow put his hand up. So we’ve got seven leaders now.”
Vaughan wants to do all he can to ensure the youth group doesn’t lose the intimacy it had to begin with. One way he plans to do that is through maintaining small weekly prayer groups.
“In one sense you pray, ‘Lord, give us growth—but help us make it sustainable growth’,” Vaughan says. “We want to keep our close-knit culture, because we’ve got some really introverted kids who will easily fall off the radar if we’re not careful.”
At the moment Vaughan is enjoying the process of leader development. He’s also started considering a youth group camp for sometime next year.
“I think the church understands it’s a real growth area for the church, and so they’re excited about it,” Vaughan reflects. “Being able to bring back news about how things are going with the youth group is good for people’s excitement about evangelism and ministry.”