Amid the dreich, mid-January slush, 350 youth and children’s workers made their way to Aviemore for a weekend of encouragement, teaching, and worship at the annual Deep Impact gathering on from 18 to 20 January.

Organised by a coalition of youth agencies and the Evangelical Alliance, Deep Impact is Scotland’s National Christian Youth and Children’s Work conference, bringing together delegates from the Shetland Isles, Orkney, the Western Isles, the Borders, as well as the larger Scottish towns and cities. 

We were delighted to be joined at Deep Impact this year by the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, who spoke with delegates about their projects in their different communities. He went on to address the conference, where he praised the valuable contributions that Christian communities have made to our society through their investment in Scotland’s children and young people.

This year’s main sessions were led by Alan and Diane McWilliam, of Whiteinch Church of Scotland in Glasgow. The couple impacted the forum with stories of transformation they had seen in their own community when they invited children and young people to step into their capabilities and callings.

Aside from the main teaching sessions, the conference was divided into three main streams: children and family workers, youth workers, and the brand-new young leaders’ stream. In their streams, delegates were able to form friendships, share testimonies, and pray together with those in their fields but in different community settings across Scotland, bringing about a real sense of unity over the whole conference. Not only were the streams beneficial on this relational level, but delegates also received high-quality teaching targeted at their specific areas of work from some highly-experienced and gifted speakers. 

The children and family workers looked at the theme of Belonging’, and enjoyed their main input from Nick Jackson, a leader of Powerpack Ministries. The youth workers looked at cultural and theological challenges facing young people today in Story’, where they heard from keynote speaker Dr Lucie Shuker, the director of research at Youthscape. In the young leaders’ stream, delegates were encouraged by their main speaker, 3DM Europe’s Rich Robinson, to reflect on what it would look like to be a generation who positively impacted their own generation and those emerging behind them.

Ali Laing, who chairs the Deep Impact planning team, said of the gathering: Those who attend Deep Impact this weekend between them work with thousands of children and young people, investing more than 150,000 hours of youth and children’s work in communities across Scotland, usually at no cost to the taxpayer. At a time of scarce resources this is a great opportunity to provide top-quality training and share good practice with Scotland’s hidden army of community heroes, for the benefit of young people across Scotland.”

Numbers aside, the true take-away from Deep Impact was that the church, contrary to popular opinion, has not turned its back on serving the local community over recent years. It was hugely encouraging to hear story after story of people who are taking God’s command to love our neighbours as ourselves seriously, and are, through their service, making Christ’s love known in their towns and cities.