Building bridges with Mainland Chinese churches, better use of local church premises, future prospects of our Mandarin congregations, strengthening the family life ministry, and producing quality kindergartens were some points brought up by the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung in his President’s Message at the 40th session of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC).
Speaking at Sengkang Methodist Church on 9 Nov 2015, the Rev Dr Chong indicated the sharing of resources and networking as a way to handle upcoming challenges.
He highlighted the need to increase usage of church premises through new worship services and ministries, as effective use of land space may become a negotiating factor during government review of lease renewal.
During a bus tour led by members of the Punggol Preaching Point (PPP) team, delegates were updated on its ministry to three to four schools offering the Rainbows programme for children in single-parent families. Besides helping children deal with loss and divorce, other ministry opportunities include Boys’ Brigade, Girls’ Brigade, mentoring, parents’ talks, and Methodist Welfare Services’ social outreach arm, FamilyWorks Community Services. In a later session, the Rev Dr Chong also strongly endorsed the Board of Laity’s resolution for all churches to support PPP financially and be involved in their ministry development.
In his address, the President also said that producing quality kindergartens presents us the space and opportunity to introduce Christian values to and bless our children.
Turning to challenges in local churches, the Rev Dr Chong called for strengthening of the family life ministry, as the breakdown of family relations adversely affects believers’ spiritual lives. The children are especially vulnerable and may abandon the faith or lack commitment despite being nurtured in church. He reiterated the urgency of employing full-time youth workers and providing financial support to youth programmes and activities to retain and develop them into tomorrow’s leaders.
To mitigate the slowing of church growth, the Rev Dr Chong suggested encouraging, equipping and training baby boomers in caring for the elderly in the community, since many in this growing demographic group are well-educated, financially independent and committed to the church.
On the first night, a special appreciation banquet was held for the Church Pioneer Generation, i.e. those aged 65 and above who served or are serving as pastors or lay delegates since 1976 when The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) and the CAC were established. These pioneers were instrumental in establishing and building up our churches while developing varied language services and ministries.
The CAC has built close relationships with the Three-Self Patriotic Church and China Christian Council. Thus, these churches in the Fujian, Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, and cities of Shanghai and Beijing have requested overseas churches to send teachers to train their pastors, theological students, members, musicians, and small group leaders. Co-labouring in their pastoral development will positively impact on overseas Chinese churches and we may even look to them for assistance in future, added the Rev Dr Chong.
Expressing his concern about the shortage of leaders and pastors in the Mandarin congregations, the President said that churches may face difficulty finding pastors proficient in Mandarin to shepherd their Mandarin congregations in future, similar to the crisis faced by the dialect ministries. He urged our English congregations to provide them with support and resources.
In his conclusion, he shared that the Methodist churches in East Malaysia, West Malaysia and Singapore should perhaps meet to exchange ideas and resources to tackle common global and regional challenges we face. n
– Chia Hui Jun