Monthly Archives: August 2011

is your church still relevant to its community?

Recently, I had the privilege of hanging out with my key leaders from R-AGE @ GII and R-AGE @ GI at its respective planning retreats in iHotel @ Batam and Salvation Army @ Bukit Timah respectively. One of the activities I led them in as part of an evaluation exercise was to list down every programme that our youth group had embarked on in the last year – from cell groups, to youth services, to conferences, to regional outings, to Christmas parties, to Easter productions, to ministry meetings, and to church retreats; I wanted a comprehensive laundry list of everything that had taken place in our ministry. Both sides did this with relative ease and easily came up with 40-50 (!) programmes. Yes, we were stunned by the sheer number of programmes.

That was our first epiphany.

Next, I got us to sort out these programmes into only one of these three categories(, which I called the “WEB” for easy recall):

  • Win: evangelistic or pre-evangelistic in nature.
  • Equip: trains and ups the level of leaders and members.
  • Build: grows and fortifies the fellowship of the believers.

Both sides arrived at similar results – on average, less than 15% were Win programmes, another 15% were Equip programmes and approximately 70% of what we had planned and executed were predominately Build programmes. Needless to say, my leaders were flabbergasted; they shared my same reaction when I completed this exercise myself at the beginning of the year. I also told them to consider how a Win programme would naturally include Equip elements and inevitably Build the youth group.

That was our second epiphany.

What I got us to do next was to name as many known felt needs as we could of the respective communities we were ministering in; R-AGE @ GI and R-AGE @ GII had obviously listed different needs based on the demographics of its vicinity – we’d be foolish to plan and execute similar programmes for an affluent Tanglin community as we would the heartland Bukit Batok community. I told them to think about the needs that their sheep had and to their (and my) astonishment, some of my leaders struggled to even name these needs because they weren’t cognisant of it. Bottom-line was, we do not really understand the felt needs of our respective communities (and honestly, we ought to be chagrined by this).

That was our third epiphany.

Next, with the list of needs we barely were able to list down from the previous segment, I got us to match it with the programmes that we had planned and executed in the last year. It was awkward for us because we struggled to do this matching exercise properly; when we did find a match, it wasn’t an entirely convincing conclusion. The question that I fired at us was, “So, how does R-AGE meet the needs of the community it exists in?”

That was our fourth epiphany.

It was only after four self-discovered epiphanies that I released us to proceed with the budgeting and programme-planning exercise. I told them that it was imperative that these four revelations formed the backdrop in their minds before they strategised for 2012.

Without mincing my words, I told them that it is pointless if a youth group isn’t able to serve the students in its community; similarly, a church becomes useless if it doesn’t value add to the community it exists in. What’s the point of establishing a church if all it does is to exist for itself? It would end up becoming a self-serving community that is completely irrelevant to its neighbourhood. (I’m embarrassed to say this but the truth is that most times, a community centre meets the needs of its community more effectively than a church does, and it should never be that way!)

Some sobering questions a church (any church!) must ask itself are:

  1. Does the neighbourhood know the existence of the church?
  2. Does the church even meet the needs of its neighbourhood?
  3. Is the church serving the neighbourhood effectively?
  4. Is the church making a difference in the neighbourhood?
  5. Would it matter at all to the neighbourhood if the church suddenly disappears?

So, is your church still relevant to its community? I’m not sure about you, but I want to ensure that my ministry is.

With that conviction (hopefully) drilled into my leaders’ hearts, I am hopeful that the programmes that they have dreamed of for 2012 would have a greater relevance to (and impact on) the youths in both Tanglin and Bukit Batok. Otherwise, we’re really wasting our time, energy and resources doing what we do. Let’s get real and stop kidding ourselves.

If we are irrelevant, we are useless. If we do not contribute, we should cease to exist. If we are not even meeting their felt needs, then why would young people even want to join our youth group? Come on, we must have a vision that is bigger than ourselves!

R-AGE must never be a feel good club – certainly not on my watch!

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if the new Grace AG was a superhero…

Last month, I attended the Grace AG combined pastoral staff retreat. During this day-retreat, the Grace AG senior leadership team briefed the pastorate on what the New Grace would entail. Personally, I look forward to heralding the New Grace because it represents a new era (so exciting!). And the pioneering spirit in me always gets fired up when history is about to be made.

I was tasked to lead an ice-breaker that took place after lunch, to nullify the graveyard shift. Of course, I never enjoyed conducting anything boring or normal, so I led a 15-minute structured experience with my colleagues; they had to SMS me their answers and play a game of charades using their answers, to achieve my two activity objectives.

Well, I always believe that ministry must be fun and enjoyable; so this is what you get when you ask pastors (some of whom are more than twice my age!) to use a cartoon character or a superhero to describe the New Grace, and explain why.

Imagine the bewildered look on my face when I received their messages (and when I watched them attempt to act it out)! It was hilarious! My personal favourites were Ps Joyce’s and Ps Kieran’s. Champion answers. Haha! (:

  • Alvin: The New Grace will be like Wonder Woman because the New Grace will be filled with wonder.
  • Andrew: The New Grace will be like The Incredible Hulk because the New Grace will be green and strong.
  • Bee Ngor: The New Grace will be like dynamite because the New Grace will be a powerhouse.
  • Benjamin: The New Grace will be like Green Lantern because the New Grace will create new things out of imagination.
  • Ps Calvin: The New Grace will be like The Lion of Judah because the New Grace will charge forward.
  • Cuixian: The New Grace will be like The Care Bears because the New Grace will care even more.
  • Ps David: The New Grace will be like Mighty Mouse because the New Grace will be humble, gentle, friendly and brave.
  • Emily: The New Grace will be like James Bond because the New Grace will experience great breakthroughs.
  • Henry: The New Grace will be like Wonder Woman because the New Grace will fly in a transparent plane.
  • Jadene: The New Grace will be like Megatron because the New Grace will be transformed from inside out to love God and people.
  • Jasvin: The New Grace will be like Iron Man because the New Grace will have a new heart.
  • Joey (Asher): The New Grace will be like Uzumaki Naruto because the New Grace will surpass the Old Grace.
  • Joey (Tan): The New Grace will be like Mr Bean because the New Grace will be more entertaining than before.
  • Joyce: The New Grace will be like Chan Loong because the New Grace will fight like ever before. —> ???
  • Judy: The New Grace will be like Doraemon because the New Grace will be supernatural.
  • Kenny: The New Grace will be like Thor because the New Grace will be mightier than before.
  • Kieran: The New Grace will be like Homer Simpson because the New Grace will all be crazy and yellow. —> !!!
  • Laura: The New Grace will be like Transformers because the New Grace will transform with time.
  • Leon: The New Grace will be like Barney because the New Grace will love each other as one big happy family.
  • Matthew (Tan): The New Grace will be like The Incredible Hulk because the New Grace will explode like never before.
  • Matthew (Wai): The New Grace will be like X-Men because the New Grace will be empowered with supernatural ability.
  • May: The New Grace will be like Kung Fu Panda because the New Grace will help more people.
  • Mei Lian: The New Grace will be like Wong Fei Hung because the New Grace will fight very powerfully.
  • Mei Mei: The New Grace will be like The King of kings because the New Grace will have victory after victory.
  • Meng Cham: The New Grace will be like Mr Fantastic because the New Grace will be stretched beyond what is humanly possible.
  • Patrick: The New Grace will be like Spiderman because the New Grace will spread its web wider than before.
  • Peck Yin: The New Grace will be like Big Bird because the New Grace will have more children coming to Him.
  • Poh Suan: The New Grace will be like Mickey Mouse because the New Grace will be refreshing, revolutionary and have transformational change.
  • Regina: The New Grace will be like Doraemon because the New Grace will see new things coming up often.
  • Ronald: The New Grace will be like Transformers because the New Grace will transform the world.
  • Scott: The New Grace will be like Captain America because the New Grace will be able to transform to a strong church that is able to battle the enemy.
  • Serene: The New Grace will be like Captain Planet because the New Grace will be used by God to save the Earth.
  • Suhui: The New Grace will be like Transformers because the New Grace will transform to meet the needs of the new generation.
  • Wai Ching: The New Grace will be like Charlie’s Angels because the New Grace will think better.
  • Walter: The New Grace will be like Batman because the New Grace will fight for the weak.
  • Woh Kit: The New Grace will be like 耶稣 because the New Grace will 将有更多爱和神迹.
How would YOU describe the New Grace (using this format)? Share it with me!

seven principles for successful relationships.

Huiyi and I are halfway through a four-session marriage preparation workshop (MPW) organised by Grace AG. We signed up for this together with Johann and Rachel, as well as Gideon and Kyann. This is the second MPW we’re attending, the first one being in Shanghai, so it’s quite refreshing revisiting some topics, which always make for meaningful conversations.

In the last session, our facilitator (Dr Alton Chua) shared with us John Gottman’s materials. I thought it was a pragmatic read, so I’d like to share it here. Here are the seven principles Gottman proposes to increase positive couple interactions:

  1. Know each other: Learn all about each other’s likes, dislikes, wishes, hopes and dreams.
  2. Focus on each other’s positive qualities: Develop positives feelings for each other, and remember the good times you have shared with each other.
  3. Interact frequently: tell each other about your day, your thoughts and your experiences. Romance is fueled not by candlelight dinners, but by interacting with your partner in numerous little ways.
  4. Let your partner influence you: Share power and be opened to change.
  5. Solve your solvable problems: Communicate respectfully. Criticise behavior without criticising your partner. Take a break when you’re getting too upset, and compromise.
  6. Overcome gridlock: Understand your partner’s underlying feelings which are preventing resolution of the conflict.
  7. Create shared meaning: Share values, attitudes, interests and traditions.

Gottman believes that couples have lesser trouble resolving conflicts when they feel positively towards one another. But one of the best things I learnt from last night was that frequent and positive couple interactions (such as communicating or negotiating) result in reducing unnecessary conflict resolution (or make it easier to resolve). Gottman also argues that “successful conflict resolution does not necessarily lead to successful marriages”, which I wholeheartedly agree with because every relationship must have elements of fun, romance and spontaneity.

Here are three more observations from Gottman which I thought are helpful to know:

  • Couples in successful marriages were found to be willing to be mutually influenced. For example, the husband makes adjustments to his schedule when his wife plans something out of the blue.
  • They know how to repair and exit an argument and not let it fester. And know when to change the topic, use humour, offer positive remarks, or seek to stand on common ground.
  • In a happy marriage, couples make at least five times as many positive statements to each other and their relationship as negative ones.

On hindsight, signing up for MPW was one of the best things that Huiyi and I did together in Shanghai. It allowed us to talk about issues that are not normally discussed during dates, such as dealing with in-laws, managing finances and dealing with past baggages, amongst many others.

We were both surprised by what we discovered about each other, and it was reassuring for both of us to know how willing we were to embrace each other’s differences. I am thankful that I acted on the Holy Spirit’s prompting to sign up for MPW in the second year of our courtship despite us being just a one-year-old couple.

With that, I’d urge all serious and committed couples to sign up for a marriage preparation workshop whenever they can, instead of waiting until they are engaged or have made all the wedding bookings. Remember, an MPW isn’t a WPW; you’re preparing for a marriage, not a wedding!

I’m never one to use age to determine readiness because I believe that it is down to which season of life one is in. (That would be a blog post in itself!) So generally speaking, I won’t recommend MPW for most of my young people or for most couples still in school. But if you are serious about each other and working towards marriage, then it may be wise (and mutually responsible) to include MPW as one of the landmarks you arrive at in your 20’s.

Dr Alton told us that some couples have actually chosen to go their separate ways after attending MPW, and that he has seen some people return to MPW after a few years with another partner. MPW does provides a platform for couples to discover irreconcilable differences. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing!

I also reckon that it is much wiser for a dating couple to end their two-year courtship after attending MPW, than for a married couple to sign divorce papers two years after their solemnisation.

My friends, the odds are stacked against us – one in two marriages end up in divorce – and being a Christian couple doesn’t guarantee that you’re on the successful side of this alarming statistic. Marriage, as all married men and women would know, requires serious effort and commitment from one another.

But if you wait until you’re married to discover that, you’re going to dig a hole for yourself. Would you rather be a wise one that learns from the mistakes of others, or a fool that learns from his own?

ILYTTE at your fingertips.

ILYTTE stands for “I Love You ‘Til The End” and it is what we have affectionately titled our wedding website. which will be progressively filled with wedding-related content as we count down to 12th August 2012.

Below contains the link to every chapter in this proposal series for your navigation convenience.

For those who have followed this “drama serial”, I trust that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. And for those who are reading this for the first time, may you discover God’s amazing grace in our relationship… Enjoy! (:

P/S: Stay tuned for my next endeavour – it’s going to be even bigger than this one! (:

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