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Home  >  Features  >  Youth Column: Be the Change You Want to See


Youth Column: Be the Change You Want to See

Monday February 10 2020

Youth worker Matthew Macneil traces his faith journey, and his role in the Awakening Youth Conference in Stornoway

You may be familiar with the phrase, ‘Be the change you want to see!’

It’s a principle that I look to live by in my role as the Youth Development & Schools Worker for the Shed Project at Martins Memorial Church in Stornoway.

I have carried a deep passion in my heart for young people for many years. It’s not too long since I was a teenager myself (I’m 23!). Throughout my years in high school I saw first hand the reality of young people making choices that lead to tragic circumstances and devastating outcomes. I knew that God was greater than these difficulties, and so I continued to pray and believe for change. But the more I hoped for change, the more I saw turmoil and tragedy unfold around me. This led me to cry out to God - “Why are you not doing anything?” In response, I heard Him ask me the same question. This was the moment a deeper passion to see young people experience the transforming love of God came alive within me.

After finishing high school I had the privilege of attending bible college at Bethel Church in Redding, California for two years.  Whilst there I learnt more about my identity in God and how to walk in His calling on my life. I came more alive to God’s love for me and grew in my love towards Him. I also grew in my love for young people. After being at Bethel for 2 years I knew God was calling me home. I didn’t know why or what for, I just knew I had to trust Him.

After a period of waiting on God, a youth worker post opened up at The Shed. I applied and was fortunate enough to secure it. In my first year I led church youth groups and youth and community work. I also developed stronger links with local schools.

Having been impacted by seeing God move whilst in America, I was now in awe of God as I saw Him move in the hearts and lives of young people here. After a year in the role, I was promoted to Youth Development Worker where I oversee all the youth work that is run in and through The Shed. We continue to see God move in remarkable ways in the lives of our youth. Whilst we’re thankful for that, we believe God’s greater plans and our greater days are still ahead of us.

This is where Awakening Youth Conference fits in. For the last few years we’ve taken about 30 teenagers to Soul Survivor, Scotland’s largest youth conference. We recently discovered that Soul Survivor was coming to an end. Whilst initially disappointed by this, I sensed God stirring something fresh in my heart.

Living in Lewis, we are familiar with having to travel to mainland cities to attend concerts and conferences. With what God was doing here, why not host our own national youth conference and invite youth from across Scotland to come to Lewis? We ran our first Awakening Youth Conference in May 2018 and had 80 young people come to seek God together.

We have recently launched Awakening 2020 ( and are excited to have secured Tim Alford from Limitless ministries as our main speaker. We are so excited and expectant for what God has in store for us. If you or youth group are in need of encouragement, or if you have vision for a better future, why not do something different and come and join us so that you and your youth will also be the change you want to see!

If you are under 30 and involved in the Church of Scotland, and would be interested in writing for this column, please email us on

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