Revolution Youth celebrates 20 years of fun and faith
BY ANTHONY CASTLE
The Revolution Youth program turns 20 this year. Based at Revolution Church in Oakden, South Australia, the program opens its doors each Friday night for young people. While Revolution Youth is now decades old, the way it works with young people has been consistent.
“Things haven’t really changed that much,” explains Nathan Casey, former Revolution Youth Pastor and leader of Revolution Church. “We open up the space, hang out together, open the ‘Snack Shaq’. We do fun and games, and there’s worship and a message.”
Known as ‘Rev’, few Salvo youth ministries have continued for so long in Australia. Launched in 2003 by former youth pastor Rowan Castle at Ingle Farm Salvos, Revolution Youth grew into a safe space and outreach initiative, transitioning to Nathan Casey’s leadership in 2008. Revolution Youth isn’t just a brand or a program but a community for those young people who need it most, offering ‘good news and good times’.
“We have kids that come in from the surrounding areas,” Nathan says. “They might be experiencing real struggles with growing up or with family. So, we have fun, and lots of it can seem silly, but, really, we want them to feel like they’ve got somewhere they’re accepted and loved every week.”
Revolution Youth connects with hundreds of different people across the year, with a weekly attendance of approximately 40 people. Many of the young people are from Youth Homelessness streams, as well as teenagers attending from the most disadvantaged local schools. The Salvation Army’s Social Justice Stocktake revealed people in the surrounding areas are most concerned about mental health, homelessness and housing affordability, social isolation and substance misuse.
“Rev’s had a reputation among local services for being a safe space for young people,” Nathan explains. “We have leaders that have good connections with local schools and The Salvation Army’s youth accommodation houses as well. People know that kids can come our way and be safe.”
Families in the area have reported feeling unable to always get the support they need, and a common theme is a feeling of disempowerment. While Revolution Youth has been an important space for young people, it’s also a community for those beyond their teenage years, with many young adults coming to find somewhere to belong and serve.
“Rev was a place where I could reconnect with Jesus and faith,” explains Megan Elms, current Revolution Youth leader, alongside Sam Elms. “I came along years ago, and it was somewhere I could just be accepted for who I was. I hadn’t felt that in a long time, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Megan and Sam’s leadership came into play after a time of transition, including a change of location and the loss of a paid role. The shift posed challenges to Revolution Youth, highlighting the many reasons why youth ministries often struggle to function in the long term.
“It was kind of like starting again,” explains Megan. “We knew we would have to rebuild some things, but we have a community of leadership we’ve developed for years, and we know what we’re about. Kids can come as they are, no matter who they are or what they’ve gone through.”
While Revolution Youth may be getting older, it looks to continue for some time. New leaders are stepping into roles of responsibility, and younger kids continue to join the community.
“We’re still going, and there’s been an impact over the years,” reflects Nathan. “It’s hard to say what you’ve helped young people avoid or cope with. What we see is that they’re here and keep coming back. It’s the Good News that they need.”
With fun and games and a message of love, the key to getting older seems to be to remember who you are. And never grow up.
*Revolution Youth is open to all young people (grade 6-12) on Fridays 7.30pm-9.30pm, 166 Fosters Rd, Oakden, South Australia