Schoolies: Drugs, Death, Drinking and… Disciple Making


by Andrew Scarborough

I’m 33, very happily married, with three amazing children, and I just went on my very first Schoolies.

It was a drug and alcohol fueled sea of youth, and I absolutely loved it.

In fact, I loved it so much, I didn’t just go to one, I went to two. Phillip Island and the Gold Coast. I loved Schoolies, because Schoolies was yet another reminder of the absolute beauty of the Australian Church.

I didn’t go to drink or take drugs, and I didn’t go to party, and I certainly didn’t go to “pick-up”. But I did have one of, what Schoolies is promoted as, “the best week(s) of (my) life”.

I was one of thousands of Australian Christians who flooded Schoolies events across the nation to both keep this generation of School Leavers safe and be a light to our youth. I went up to Schoolies with Youth for Christ's Schoolies for Jesus, but we weren’t alone, we were surrounded by the Red Frogs Crew, Power to Change, and many other believers out to make a difference.

The Australian Church is actually extremely relevant and an incredible force for the unity, peace and prosperity of our nation.

And a difference is exactly what we made! I was a part of seeing hundreds of Australian youth impacted with a message of hope through Christians sharing the love of Jesus in their words. And I saw thousands receive Jesus’ love in action through an army of volunteers, as young Christians held schoolies while they vomited, walked with them when they couldn’t walk, and made sure they were hydrated and home safe.

At a time when many in the media seem intent on labeling Australian Christians as archaic, offensive and divisive, I was reminded that the Australian Church is actually extremely relevant and an incredible force for the unity, peace and prosperity of our nation.

What's more, I was in awe of the reality that this generation is desperate for what Jesus has to offer, as I witnessed youth after youth thank the Australian Church for being exactly as she has always been (or at least is meant to be) – true to the Bible, true to our convictions, full of love and carrying a message of grace and mercy for all.

I recall a young person saying to me, “Hey what does Jesus think of lesbians!?” as she kissed another girl in front of me. I responded, “Jesus loves everyone, and Jesus loves you!” She seemed amazed that I, a Christian, wasn’t liked the media portrayal. She came over with tears in her eyes to listen to the reality of Jesus – that He can save you and give you a new life.

Many young people won’t walk into a church, but they are so thankful when the church walks to them.

One young person asked me, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” 20 minutes later he was thanking me profusely for the way I was being the church amongst a sea of people who I was reminded again and again, by him and his peers, “really need Jesus.”

Another walked up to our team and exclaimed, “Thank God you’re here, I have so many questions.”

One schoolie apologetically told one of our team, “I’m sorry for being a #@*&, I was just so mad because you are so right and you’re actually a top bloke.”

A young man I spoke with later texted me to say his interaction with me means he is now going to reconnect with Jesus.

Another teenager said that meeting the Jesus People was the highlight of their Schoolies.

I could go on.

Many young people won’t walk into a church, but they are so thankful when the church walks to them.

The church in action truly is a marvellous movement. Gold Coast locals are singing the praises of Red Frogs (an organisation that is made up predominantly of local Church volunteers) who, despite the tragic death this year of one school leaver who fell from his hotel balcony, have helped reduce serious injuries and deaths since they began to serve Schoolies.

The reality is religious volunteers, the vast majority Christian, donate over $480,000,000 worth of manpower to the Australian economy each year[1].

We, the Australian Christian community, aren’t the enemy. In fact we are one of Australia’s greatest allies, especially of this next generation. We believe in their good, their potential, their future. We believe that every single person is made in the image of God and that their life matters so very much. We believe they can have a solid identity, a solid foundation for life, and even more than that, a secure eternity in Christ.

My prayer is that soon, very soon, the media would be dominated with what I heard again and again this Schoolies as we shared Jesus’ love. “Thank you Church for being here, don’t be silent, speak up, you bring the message we so desperately need, the message of Jesus!"