“Though informal groups of Methodist men might have started meeting and praying together in the past, the first of the formal groups, who called themselves Men’s Small Groups or MSG, was formed at Barker Road Methodist Church in 2001, initially with only seven members.”
THERE ARE MANY CHURCHES in the United States, especially those in the lower-income areas, where the members are mostly women. They are attending the churches’ worship services alone because their husbands are either unsaved or have backslid. These churches remain unhealthy without their men coming forward and taking their share of the church’s leadership. As a result, they become vulnerable and could hardly make any impact on their communities.
It is good to know that none of our Methodist churches has gone that way yet, begging the questions which James Dobson and Gary Baur ask in their book, Children At Risk: “Where are the fathers? Where are the men?”
On the contrary, a growing number of churches in Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) have set up men’s-only ministries to encourage the men to come together as a group to pray, share and grow spiritually, in the past few years. They include groups at Barker Road Methodist Church, Faith MC, Wesley MC, Bedok MC, Covenant Community MC and more recently, Cairnhill MC.
Though informal groups of Methodist men might have started meeting and praying together in the past, the first of the formal groups, who called themselves Men’s Small Groups or MSG, was formed at Barker Road MC in 2001, initially with only seven members.
They met every Saturday morning for breakfast at 6.30 am, at first in a member’s home and later at the church’s temporary premises at the former Swiss Cottage Secondary School, for more than two hours each week to worship, learn and share with one another. The group, now with at least 20 regulars and has since taken on the new name, Emmaus Walk Men’s Fellowship, meets at the church’s new building at Barker Road after it was completed in 2002.
The Rev Barnabas Chong, 45, now Pastor-in-Charge of Cairnhill MC, was among the three pioneering members who started the men’s fellowship at Barker Road MC when he was a lay ministry staﬀ there looking after small groups and adult ministries between 2000 and 2002.
He recalls his first exposure to men’s ministries in the church, such as Men In Covenant and the Promise Keepers, when he was in Melbourne doing his theological studies at the Ridley College in the late 1990s.
After he returned home and started work as a lay ministry staﬀ at Barker Road MC in 2000, he felt God’s burden on him to start a similar men’s group here. He then approached the church’s Pastor-in-Charge, the Rev Malcolm Tan, who gave him his support and blessings.
When the Rev Chong moved to Faith MC as Assistant Pastor in 2002, he also encouraged the men there to start a men’s-only group called Men of Faith, which has about 10 men attending weekly meetings and another 150 connected by the group through email now. e group also hosts breakfast meetings between two and three times a year which attract up to 30 men each time.
He also helped members at Cairnhill MC set up Fire – Cairnhill Men’s Fellowship, three months ago. For the group’s launch, he screened the movie, Fireproof, a tear-jerker on how to heal a broken marriage, to more than 30 of the church’s members and their male friends on May 29, 2009.
Since then the group has organised four more monthly meetings and is planning its sixth later this month. e programme included talks given by top civil servants such as Mr Tan Gee Paw on their Christian walk.
Most of those who are attending the men’s ministries at our Methodist churches are from as young as those in their late 30s to grandfathers in the 70s.
Besides the Methodists, several other Singapore churches, including Evangelical Free Church and City Harvest, also have their own men’s ministries, says the Rev Chong.
On his motivation to start the all-men’s groups in Methodist churches, he said: “In the first place I think the men in our Methodist churches could be more godly and there were not enough opportunities for them to share deeply their feelings and concerns too, especially their roles as husbands and fathers at home and as leaders in the workplaces.
“They need a structured platform to do so and with the setting up of the men’s groups in some of our churches, we are seeing more men sharing openly now.”
Mr Henry Tan, 45, a Wesley MC lay leader and Chairman of the church’s Family Life Ministry, saw more men sharing their diﬃculties, coping with temptations at the workplace and struggling to be better husbands and fathers at home, since the church set up its men’s-only group, Men In Christ, two years ago.
He said between 10 and 15 men now attend the group’s monthly lunch meetings and a slightly bigger group attend its quarterly breakfast gatherings. The first morning gathering was held in May this year and the next is scheduled for Oct 31.
Mr Tan disclosed that it was the fathers’ praying group at Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) to which he belonged when his sons were studying there that inspired him and a few other members at Wesley to start the men’s ministry in the church.
The Rev Chong hopes more Methodist churches would set up similar groups to encourage more men to share, lead and be more spiritual.
“I believe that as our men become more godly, they will become leaders, leading their families and in the church as well.”
Leong Weng Kam, a member of Wesley Methodist Church, is an Associate Editor of Methodist Message.