YA Forum panelLast Saturday evening (November 1st) Graceworks organised it’s first Young Adults Ministry forum. We are committed to seeing lives changed through relationships, and young adults (18–31) are a key concern for us. Organising this forum gave us an opportunity to put into practice some of our convictions on ministry. Here are a few of them.

1. Use Local Expertise

Many Christian events in the region feature speakers from overseas, often the U.S. or England. I have been very blessed by saints from those countries and elsewhere. Indeed, in a global world we should be learning from folks from different parts of the world.

But Christianity has been in Singapore and Malaysia for many years now and we have key local people who have struggled to apply their faith in the local context. It would make sense to seek the wisdom of these local saints and not automatically assume that the chap from far away knows better.

Perhaps it is laziness, or the remnants of a colonial mindset, or maybe our friends from the West market their ministries better, but we often give more credence to friends from abroad than to our local leaders and teachers.

We have much to learn from saints from other lands and we have much to offer them too, but we believe that we should first hear from each other in our community before we bring in some expert from far away.

2. Listen Before Speaking

Too much Christian education is top down. We assume we know the questions that people are facing and we assume we know the answers. This is no way to approach ministry of any age group and it is fatal in young adult ministry. In a recent interview with FAST COMPANY, Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University, said:

[o]ne thing I’ve come to understand is how important listening is to leadership. When you’re listening, you’re getting information. You’re being given the gift of understanding where someone is, and leadership is about moving people from where they are to where you hope they’ll go. (Evie Nagy, “A Leader Has To Keep Saying the Same Things Over and Over Again,” FAST COMPANY, July/August 2014, 40.)

And James has always told us “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19b NIV).”

We spent the first part of our forum dividing the audience into small groups. The participants had come from different churches and organizations. Most were young adults. Some were older but ministering to young adults. In each group, the participants shared what was most challenging in their ministries.

We could have spent the whole evening on the small-group discussions alone. Folks were passionate, sharing their joys, struggles and questions with their counterparts from other churches. At the very least they soon realised that they were not alone in their practice of young adult ministry.

We then had the various groups report back and we recorded what people felt were the key issues in this ministry. The information gleaned will guide us, going forward.

3. Teach/Learn in Community

When it came to the teaching time, we didn’t use one single expert speaker. We had a forum panel consisting of one moderator and three panelists. And the teaching/learning took place as the panel responded to various issues raised by the moderator and from the floor.

At the rate that knowledge in every subject is growing, no one single person knows it all. No one can. We should be using team teaching much more often than we do. The husband-and-wife team of Aquila and Priscilla is one example of a teaching team. They instructed Apollos (Acts 18:18–28). Indeed the first ministry team we encounter in Scripture is Adam and Eve. Our God is a communal God—Father, Son and Spirit. It would make sense that ministry in His Name should also be done in community.

I am not saying we do away with the one-speaker format. (I gave a brief overview for the evening at the start of the meeting.) But we need to explore team teaching more.

These then are three ministry values that guide the ministry of Graceworks—Using Local Expertise, Listening Before Speaking, and Teaching/Learning in Community.

I hope that those who came for the forum were blessed. Maybe some were disappointed that they left with more questions than answers. And maybe that is not a bad thing. It is a reminder that the truly important things in life resist quick fixes, that we need to be patient, that we need to seek the Lord more, and that we need to seek the answers together.