In Youth Ministry Realities in Singapore: Insights and Wisdom from the Ground (2016), Calvin Chong (Ph.D., Singapore Bible College Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore) found that one of the main weaknesses highlighted by youth leaders was that “youth ministries in Singapore were lacking relevance and not engaging the youth sufficiently.”
A youth leader observed that it seemed to be a resistance to change. That ministry was “running in the same way when the culture is changing”, and “just struggling to hold on to certain forms of discipleship, certain programmes”.
In 2019, The Connected Generation project* found about two thirds of Christian youth feel that “faith is more relevant in the hard times of life”, suggesting a disconnect between faith and the real world.
Painting a rather bleak outlook of youths being disengaged and an assumption that their faith is (at best) unnecessary in good times—what does this mean for the future of youth ministry in Singapore?
Are we engaged in what’s important to our youth?
“Young people are thinking about questions like meaning, purpose, identity and sexuality. These questions are not new, but in a post-truth world where they’ve been told to think with their feelings, they are facing more uncertainty in dealing with these questions than ever before.”
To Max, this is the very reason the gospel needs to be heard and understood—for youths to get a clear look at the person of Jesus Christ.
Youth ministries and leaders need to start engaging their youths about issues that are real to them. Because if they do not, these young people will be taught by social media, popular culture and their peers instead.
Chen Qingwen, Cru Campus Ministry staff of 18 years, shared, “We need to be equipped in discussing issues such as sexuality, pornography, mental illnesses with youths. To help them develop biblical convictions and the right posture about these issues.”
Even if confusion and pain is their reality now, we must learn to walk with them through this process of realising Jesus is right there with them.
Is our approach to discipleship working for our youth?
“I feel that this generation is hungry, they desire to live authentically. The question for us as leaders is, how do we help them live out their faith authentically and fully, an every single day experience?”
“What is the design of the church, do we have an environment and a space that really allows people to live their walk fully?” Isaac Ong, Youth Director of Campus Ministry in Emmanuel Assembly of God Church, shared.
With technology and easy access to information, our youths have their fill of opinions and knowledge. As Ng Zhiwen, Programme Manager at Singapore Centre for Global Mission (SCGM), puts it, “We can study the Bible week after week, but fail to think through how it speaks to life today in all its facets.”
“We need to start shifting into thinking: how are we building for 10 years down the road of youth ministry? This should be our measurements of success—10 years later, are they still serving the local church? Are they loving Jesus and thriving in their faith?” said Ang Hern Shung, Youth Ministry Worker at Trinity Methodist Church.
Isaac continued, “Discipleship is a long-term process. But sometimes the pressure to want to produce immediate fruit, sacrifices a long-term fruit, where we see them grow in depth with greater foundation.”
As youth leaders, our hearts are for our young people. They are the reason we chose to jump into this ministry. But with more questions than answers these days, and the future of youth ministry an ever-changing landscape, we must admit that we need each other and we need fresh ideas.
*The Connected Generation project is a collaboration between Barna and World Vision, which surveyed more than 15,000 young people aged between 18 and 35 years old across 25 countries and nine languages. In Singapore, online interviews were conducted with 500 respondents who were quota-sampled for representation.
Deborah is passionate about capturing different perspectives to create relevant and impactful content. She enjoys meaningful conversations and collecting experiences, but also loves time spent just with a good book and cup of coffee.
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