Noel and Lynette Wright moved to Shellharbour at the start of 2020 and became the Lead Pastors of Shellharbour City Baptist Church just six weeks before COVID-19 locked down their church.
Not only was this a challenging time to settle their four boys into a new town and new schools, but it was a challenging time to lead a church. With the churches work in the community sector taking off and consuming a lot of their time, their dreams for a youth program and youth worker had been put on the back-burner. But over the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions the church had gained a some new families whose kids would be teenagers in a few years, making launching a youth group a more pressing need.
One night one of Lynette’s boys came up to his mum and said that he and Ester*, a girl from their church, wanted to start a youth group. Micah* explained that he was travelling half an hour north to get to his youth group and Ester was travelling half an hour south to get to hers. He explained that there was no way he would be able to convince his friends to travel that far to come and try out youth group.
Lynette empathised but said that she was too busy. There was a lot happening at the church, and working at the church and coordinating the church’s community support arm was taking up all of her time.
But Micah responded,
“so, you’re not going to let me start a youth group to bring my non-Christian friends to?”
And just like that, Swell Youth was born.
Swell Youth started in August 2022, with Micah and three of his friends as trainee leaders. The vision of the youth group is to bring young people together to dream and make wakes in their community, with the effects rippling out as more and more young people come to meet Jesus.
The youth group grew from seven young people in its first week to sixteen young people by the end of the year. But Noel and Lynette were still the only adult leaders so ensuring the sustainability of Swell Youth was a priority.
But the church could only afford to employ a youth worker for one day a week. So, they came up with an out-of-the-box idea – why not combine the role with a part-time teacher/chaplain role in Warilla Baptist Preschool, the preschool attached to the church?
They expected this role would be hard to fill. They needed someone experienced with toddlers, evangelical with parents, and passionate about youth ministry. They asked the church to pray that as someone read the role description it would resonate with them.
Not long after Kelsey called the church office and said to Noel that as she read the position description “it really resonated with me”. The exact thing that Noel had asked the church to pray would happen. “It brought me to tears,” Kelsey continued, “that something so accurately described me and my passions”.
Noel and Lynette are excited for where God is leading the church. They look at Swell Youth and see God at work, guiding them onwards and impacting the lives of people in their community.
*names changed for privacy reasons