21st Young Methodist Leaders Conference: What should the Methodist Church look like in the future?

“Welcome to YMLC! Have you been prayed for?”

These greetings filled the atrium of Wesley Methodist Church as youth leaders from Methodist churches arrived to attend the 21st Young Methodist Leaders Conference (YMLC), the first in-person YMLC since the pandemic.

For Glennis Ooi from Christalite Methodist Chapel, it was for a time of connection, renewal, and being refreshed in the Lord. She recounted, “Before YMLC started, I was struggling with my faith and almost lost my faith. I told God that if Christianity is for me, speak to me at YMLC. Long story short, he worked in so many different ways to show me that even if I’m undeserving of God’s love, I’ll find my way back to him. God works in many ways and will never forsake us.”

However, personal renewal was only a small part of the YMLC. Since its inception, YMLC has sought to raise the next generation of leaders in the Methodist Church. With that in mind, the theme for this year’s YMLC, “Re:Inspired: Imagining God’s Methodist Vineyard for the Future” invited delegates to consider the question, “What should our Methodist Church look like in the future?”

The purpose of this was to challenge and inspire our delegates to consider the future of the church and their roles, and also to remember our Wesleyan heritage.

The first plenary kicked off with a look at “Traditioning into the Future”. Rev Dr Bernard Chao discussed how the early Methodist movement began as a “future-facing tradition that started with and grew with innovation”. In particular, he noted innovations in five areas: spirituality, social concern and social justice, liturgy and worship, evangelism and missions, as well as organisational leadership.

Having seen what God had done in the past, the second plenary focused on the question, “What is God doing in our Methodist churches?”

The forum between current and future leaders of TRAC was moderated by Rev Dr Bernard Chao (far left). On the panel were (from left to right) TRAC Vice-President Dr Cheah Fung Fong; TRAC President, Rev Stanley Chua; TRAC Lay Leader, Mr Henry Tan; and District Superintendent for District 4, Rev Dr Edwin Wong
Delegates at the 21st Young Methodist Leaders Conference

Taking the bull by its horns, TRAC President Rev Stanley Chua began by asking delegates a bold question: “How many of you have ever thought about leaving the Methodist Church?” In response, it seemed as if nary a hand remained unraised. Going on to address some of the limitations with the Methodist system, he made it clear that “Despite our limitations and weakness as a Church, we can still grow and that is proof that God has not left The Methodist Church in Singapore.”

This resonated with Bryan Ho of Cairnhill Methodist Church, who shared that one of his greatest takeaways from YMLC was that “The Methodist Church was not built upon the work of any one man, but by the Holy Spirit. Even the greatest work of man could not match up against the smallest work of our Almighty God—this we have seen in the undying passion of our Young Leaders for Christ over the last 22 years through the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

The greatest highlight was undoubtedly the forum between the young leaders and current TRAC leaders. A panel comprising Rev Chua, Vice-President Dr Cheah Fung Fong, Lay Leader Mr Henry Tan, and District 4 Superintendent Rev Dr Edwin Wong engaged delegates in a time of dialogue.

Lynette Quah from Paya Lebar Methodist Church shared, “I appreciated the invitation to craft the future of our Methodist Church together and even challenging traditions that may not have worked well. It was heartening to see the young people as well as the older people come together, united by a love for our Church and a desire for the Methodist Church to grow.”

There was also a time for delegates to Re:Align, as Rev Reuben Ng challenged the conference to be obedient to God’s call on their lives and serve him regardless of the circumstances each faced. This was followed by a time of commitment and prayer.

YMLC delegates engaging current TRAC leaders in the forum

The mentors—all TRAC pastors—had set aside three days of their time to journey with our young leaders during the conference. As Pastor Joseph Chean remarked, he had never seen any other church or denomination send their pastors to serve as mentors for young leaders. “Perhaps this could be said to be an ‘innovation’ by the Methodist church today,” he said.

The final day gave delegates an opportunity to connect with delegates from the inaugural YMLC. This took the form of a recording featuring Rev Dr Isaac Lim, who had first mooted the idea of bringing together young leaders as the next generation of leaders in the Methodist Church, and a panel of YMLC alumni. It was somewhat poignant that delegates of the 1st YMLC prayed for delegates of the 21st YMLC, painting a picture of one generation of leaders passing on the torch to another and inviting our young leaders to be co-workers in God’s Church.

As YMLC concluded, we left not only having been fed by the Lord, but also with a renewed sense that having seen God’s hand at work in our history, we know that it is he who had kept and sustained us. We could go forth assured that God was not done with the Methodist Church yet. The question is, will we continue to carry the Wesleyan flame and heart of Methodism in this generation?

CTA: Check out the YMLC Instagram account (@tmlctracsg) for more snippets and pictures from the conference.

By Rev Allan Lee, YMLC Committee / Photos courtesy of YMLC 2022 Media Team photographers, Matthias Ho, Hazel Heng, Joash Lee, Shimone Kow, and Rachael Koh