In his two years at Kaikoura's Presbyterian Church, St Paul's on the Hill, minister-in-training Alistair McNaughton has embraced the Kaikoura community by getting involved in a number of youth activities which he hopes to expand on.
Alistair's last two years have been spent as an internship, working towards taking on the role as fully-fledged minister, which he is now embarking on after his ordination last week in front of his congregation.
Alistair became actively involved in the church as a teenager, when he says he felt the call of God.
"I grew up pretty much agnostic. My family dragged me along to church but I hated it, I thought it was boring. I began searching, asking questions, until I came to faith in my mid-teens, and from there grew the desire to make a difference."
Alistair has now been involved in the church for more than a decade. He started up a Christian youth group in his home town of Nelson, something he is keen to repeat here in Kaikoura. He has also spent time working as a lay minister in Auckland, but was keen to return to the mainland so when the position came up in Kaikoura he was thrilled.
"It's quite different from Auckland, where I had a congregation of two or three hundred. Here the congregation is much smaller of course [about 30] but it gives me great joy to be able to get to know people on that personal level . . . it is a wonderful community."
The two years spent in Kaikoura has been a good learning curve, he says, which was made easy under the guidance of former minister Ralph Penno and Anglican vicar Owen Haring. Alistair is now keen to put some emphasis into renewing the ministry for families, as well as offering something specifically for the youth of Kaikoura. A young minister, he is also keen to embrace technology and invest in electronic aids for the church.
Alistair was instrumental in the appointment of youth social workers David and Kendal Duthie, who arrived last year. Their focus is specifically to work with young people, enabling Alistair to continue his ministerial role on a broader level.
"We are about to start up a youth group, and are hoping to have some fun and games for junior youth as well as involving spirituality. Kaikoura is a goldmine of things to do [for young people]. A youth group has been my hope coming here all along."
The youth group will be starting up later this month and it is hoped activities such as boating, paintball and farm park visits will all be in the agenda.
Alistair knows how discerning children can be these days, with three of his own (James, 13, Grace, 11, and Daniel, 9), so he hopes they will be able to lead the way to an extent and take ownership of the direction the group will head.
"It will only get a life of its own if the youth own it themselves."
But it is not just the youth that Alistair hopes to target with fresh ideas - he believes the whole community, no matter what their individual faith, could benefit from ideas such as a Christian camp or conferences held in the district.
And Alistair is approachable and always open to ideas, so if anyone out there can think of a way of engaging youth, or even bringing business to town, where he could help in some way, you are warmly invited to talk to him.
- © Fairfax NZ News