Maddie grew up in a Christian home and her heart has always been consumed with sharing God with her friends. “I was at a church camp before I started year 7 with a friend who was not a Christian, and I remember really caring that she listened and understood about who God is. It was that time I realised how much I cared, how convicted I was that I was sinful, and that I need God; that’s where my faith became my own.”
Maddie’s faith has grown throughout high school as she has kept asking questions. A student at St Luke’s Grammar school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Maddie is just one young person blessed during the past three years by Bible Society Australia’s Masterclass events. Held annually for years 9-12 students, Masterclass explores contemporary issues from a biblical perspective – in-person and, last year, online. Masterclass also includes a popular Q&A session, giving students the freedom to ask our panel of speakers searching questions about the Christian faith.
While her friends ask her questions about her faith and are open to conversations, Maddie says her challenge is “being bold and speaking out of the minority; urging those around me to listen to me beyond what they hear in our school’s weekly chapel service.”
Maddie’s best memory of Masterclass was the year a friend attended as well, someone who was seeking to know more about God. The talks that year included one on science and God, sex and Christianity as well as a Q&A session which allowed students to ask questions anonymously through an app. Maddie says, “I remember talking to my friend afterwards. She said that she hadn’t spent a day diving into those big ideas ever … Masterclass was the first time she had heard these ideas expressed in this way – it was different to chapel at school. She came away so keen and excited by that.”
“We want answers to our questions. We want to hear these talks. But not only that; our friends want answers too. That’s what I’ve taken away from Masterclass; as much as I want to hear these things, they are really important to take back to our friends.”
Living out your faith as a Christian teenager in high school is not easy. Thankfully, for year 12 student Abigail, she is well supported by her family, including her grandmother Cathryn, a Bible Society supporter.
In 2019, Abigail’s grandmother heard about Masterclass, which Bible Society had expanded to include regional areas, including Orange, New South Wales, where Abigail lives. The very next thing Cathryn did after learning about Masterclass was to contact her granddaughter.
Abigail says, “I thought, ‘Oh that sounds cool!’, so I signed up for it.” Abigail believed in God from child but found herself with a lot of questions about him by the time she was in her first year of high school. “I didn’t really know whether I actually believed in God’s existence as much anymore. That’s not to say I completely rejected Christianity; I just had a lot of questions.”
It wasn’t until the following year, at a Christian camp for youth, that Abigail properly realised “God was everything he said he was in the Bible, and that he did send Jesus to die for my sins.” One year later, when she was in Year 9, she really understood how to live as a Christian: “That’s when I learned what giving my entire life to God looked like, as opposed to simply believing in him. And I’ve tried since then to actually live out my faith, rather than just believing.”
This decision proved to be challenging, day to day. Abigail says, “Because I go to a public school, being a Christian is something almost unheard of. People don’t know what Christianity is anymore, so I find that they tend to have a lot of misconceptions about it, and about what I believe. Which can be really hard.”
Abigail found Masterclass to be enormously encouraging, just by turning up! Before any of the talks were even delivered, the day was worthwhile for her. “I went by myself, since no one from my school was attending. But it was encouraging to see how many other Christian kids there are in my town. I saw kids who I know from other contexts, and I realised that I’m not on my own.”
That realisation, as well as feeling more equipped by teaching “on how to live out your faith in a situation where no one else is doing that” was what Abigail took away from the day.
Bible Society Australia is committed to Opening The Bible with all people, everywhere. At home, this happens across Australia, in our church communities, within our families – and for our children and youth. You can help provide resources for our work with young people, and our other initiative like Bibles for Bubs which enables parents to Open The Bible with their tots. This year we are making a special ask to help us provide 200,000 Bible resources for the work at home. Together, we can give all Australians the chance to Open The Bible, whatever their age, language or circumstance.