Features, Highlights

Youth matters!

Speakers and participants

As part of the MCS 135 celebrations, the MCS Youth Conference Committee organised an online “Youth Matters” forum on 10 Dec 2020. The Rev Bernard Chao, a lecturer at Trinity Theological College who teaches a “Rethinking Youth Ministry” course to youth workers, moderated the forum together with a panel comprising Pastor Ian Wong, a youth pastor from Kum Yan Methodist Church (MC), Bernice Toh, a youth leader from Paya Lebar MC, and Samuel Wan, a youth from Christ MC.

The panel had an engaging and authentic dialogue with youth practitioners and youths from different Methodist churches in Singapore. Four key questions were brought up for discussion.

1. Have we prioritised programmes over people?

A research paper titled “Youth Ministries Realities in Singapore” highlights that many ministries are strong in organising large-scale events and programmes. However, this strength could also be a weakness, especially when programmes take priority over relationships, resulting in people getting lost along the way.1

Pastor Ian shared five steps to describe the journey he hopes to see in a person coming into youth ministry.

  1. Fun: The excitement that someone feels when they first get drawn in.
  2. Friendship: Making genuine connections with people within the church. 
  3. Feeding: Growing deeper roots by being taught and learning something.
  4. Fruitfulness: Where the learning produces fruit. A season of growth where you see a change in the person’s character. 
  5. Faith: The place of surrender. You become a disciple of Jesus Christ when He tells you to do something and you actually do it.

Events are important for bringing a youth into the church but it is hard for anyone to get to the fifth step without first building genuine personal relationships. What matters to the youths are authentic relationships and not just the programmes per se.

2. Have our pet ideas of church and youth ministry been disrupted?

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our ideas of what Youth Ministry has become today. Bernice shared her challenges in keeping up with her youths without the weekly face-to-face interactions in church. However, this inspired her and her team to do ministry differently. For example, coming up with creative online initiatives like worship music videos for youths so that they can worship in their own homes as well as an online dialogue with a missions worker for the young people to hear and see what is going on in the field.

Sam shared: “For me and my friends, the Circuit Breaker was one of the best things that has happened to us. We had almost nightly Zoom calls to worship and pray.” These sessions were what have become the “School Houses of Prayer” (S.H.O.P.), a weekly meeting connecting prayer groups across different schools to pray, worship and fellowship together online.

3. Who is missing from our churches?

The Rev Bernard challenged the group to consider the following questions: “Who is under-represented? Who is not even there? Are we like a club, or are we engaged and connected to our communities?”

Sam shared his observation that one of the reasons visitors find it hard to assimilate into a church is because of cliques that have formed within. Personally, this is an issue that we need to be aware of. As much as we want a tightly-knit youth ministry, we always need to be Kingdom-minded and not just look inwardly as a ‘holy huddle’. We need to look out and beyond just our close group of friends and befriend others, especially those who may not seem to fit in with the community.

The reason people come may not be the reason they stay. People may be attracted to a programme but what makes them stay is when they are connected to a genuine life community. In fact, “we do not want them to just stay but we want them to change”, Ps Ian concludes.

4. What are you waiting for?

The Rev Bernard closed the session by challenging the participants to ponder their personal ownership of the Kingdom and the Church.

One of my personal convictions as a pastor is that there are many things that we can outsource to different task forces and committees, but we cannot outsource discipleship. We can plan all the programmes for our youths but miss the main point if we are not modelling discipleship. As a matter of fact, discipleship should involve the entire church.

There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Likewise, a church is like a “kampung”, a kampung comprised of different generations. Whatever our stage of life, we all need to do our part in laying the foundation for the next generation.

We are stewards of the spiritual treasure God has given us. It is our responsibility to guard this deposit and then invest it in the lives of others. Imagine a Church where the seniors are investing in the adults, the adults are mentoring the young adults, the young adults are leading the youths and the youths are being big brothers or sisters to the younger children. Imagine if every single one of us reading this article embraces that mandate to be a disciple-maker. Imagine the impact we can make in God’s Kingdom in the world today!

1 Dr Calvin Chong, “Youth Ministries Realities in Singapore: Insights and Wisdom from the Ground” (April 2016),

The Online Youth Matters forum held over Zoom on 10 Dec 2020

The Rev Benjamin Lau has a heart for Discipleship & Evangelism and a passion for mentoring the younger generation. He currently serves on the TRAC Board of Youth Ministry. Formerly the pastor overseeing the Youth Ministry at Christ Methodist Church from 2018–20, he started his new appointment at Wesley Methodist Church in Jan 2021 and is the pastor overseeing the Children Ministry and BeTweens Ministry (11–14 year olds).