Happenings

Insights from historic survey of children and youth ministries

Oct 2015    
From left: Dr Calvin Chong, Ms Gwen De Rozario, Dr Cheah Fung Fong, Mr Rodel Lacson, the Rev Jeremy West (OneHope Regional Director, Asia-Pacific) and Mr Terry Williams.

“If we hear their hearts… we can answer their cries!” said Mr Rodel Lacson, Regional Operations Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific region with OneHope, a Scripture engagement ministry. OneHope is conducting a survey of children and youth ministries in churches, spanning more than 40 countries, and Rodel was presenting the findings from Singapore – the first time such a survey has been conducted across denominations here. The historic survey had been sparked off by a question: “Are we connecting with the next generation?” This was measured through collecting information from churches and Christian organisations about how they have been reaching children and youth with the gospel. For the Singapore report, data was collected from 110 churches and 15 Christian organisations, of which 20.7 per cent are Methodist.

Why is such research important? “Research gives us the information to prompt us into action,” noted Rodel. The findings highlighted current church practices in ministering to children and youth, and areas of strength as well as challenges and opportunities. He hoped that the findings presented would encourage churches to grasp opportunities and seek innovative solutions for challenges in children and youth ministries.

For example, the survey found that technology is becoming increasingly important in reaching children and youth in Singapore, where household access to the Internet and mobile phone penetration are both high. Thus, churches can leverage on tools such as the mobile application ‘The Bible App for Kids’, which OneHope partnered with YouVersion to produce, to assist in discipleship and outreach efforts.

The findings of the quantitative survey, as well as accompanying qualitative interviews, were presented at a session hosted by The Bible Society of Singapore (BSS) on 21 Aug 2015. OneHope’s partners in this research project were BSS, the ETHOS Institute™ for Public Christianity, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore.

Dr Calvin Chong, Associate Professor of Educational Studies at Singapore Bible College, presented preliminary findings from qualitative interviews conducted among youth leaders of churches and Christian organisations, aiming to “offer the church wisdom and rich insights of ground-level realities surrounding the Singapore Christian youth scene”. Likewise, Ms Gwen De Rozario, Head of Children Ministry at BSS, shared findings from qualitative interviews conducted among children’s ministries.

A sobering realisation was that although churches may recognise the importance of investing in children and youths who are the next generation and the future of the Church, they are lacking full-time children and youth workers who can adequately support the respective ministries. Gwen noted: “There is a difference in what we know and aspire to, and what is happening on the ground.” As such, it was useful to have both the quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection, to place the results in appropriate perspective.

The need for parents to partner with children and youth ministries was particularly highlighted through the qualitative interviews. Parents’ active involvement in discipling their children and youth was crucial, a point later echoed by Mr Terry Williams, Children’s Ministry Specialist with Scripture Union Queensland and SU International.

Visiting Singapore to speak at the SticKEY Faith Conference 2015, which was to take place the very next day, Terry noted that the pattern in Jesus’ day for making disciples was the family – firstly in the household, then complemented by the wider family of the gathered church. He quoted Pope Francis: “Families are the domestic Church.”

More research is needed to find out the factors which help children and youth stay in church and in the faith. Dr Cheah Fung Fong, Chairperson of the Trinity Annual Conference Board of Children’s Ministry (TRAC BOCM), shared preliminary results from a poll done by BSS and TRAC BOCM that invited responses from youth and young adults who had grown up in church and stayed. More responses are being sought for the poll, which remains open until 31 Oct 2015.

FIND OUT more insights from the OneHope
report – visit ethosinstitute.sg/resources/ (scroll
to bottom of page) and bible.org.sg/children

PARTICIPATE in the poll by BSS and
TRAC BOCM if you are between 18 and 36 years old,
and have been attending church
since you were eight years old or younger – visit
goo.gl/6A1Bvv before 31 Oct 2015

Photo courtesy of The Bible Society of Singapore

Grace Toh is Assistant Editor of Methodist Message and has been a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church for most of her life.

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