Spiritual formation for young people

the brochureHandcrafting young people

One of the main things we can do as a small church is to handcraft young people to take on the mantle of servant leadership in the church. One way is for us to actually use that period when young people are waiting to study in some institution, or for new semester to begin, or to go into National Service. It is difficult to find a similar period for Polytechnic students as the different polys have different breaks. However we managed to find a period for the former. We found a period of 40 days and brought together 6 of them. We “de-schooled” the training  and made it more relational, interactive, research-active, digital and communal. Nine to 5 from Tuesday to Saturday is intense and by the fifth week we were feeling like climbing the last stretch of Mt Kinabalu at 3am in the morning. But it felt so satisfying to have persevered to the end-point.

spending a half day in prayer

One thing young people found very helpful

One thing that really struck me was how the participants were hungry to make sense of the Bible. They were looking for meaning that tied together the seeming jig-saw of Bible stories, laws, instructions, prayers, wise sayings, poetry that were written long ago over a long period of time by a host of different authors with different purposes. They was a definite search for thematic perspectives. Its more than a book by book survey. Its the blood red vascular system that runs through the flesh of the biblical text that begs exposition. It’s also the historical and cultural and literary context that they wish to unlock as these hid the treasure.

Kranji War MemorialA memorable ending

Another thing that helped them was the challenge at the end. After they had viewed the mercy of God, and experienced His love in prayer and reflection, we brought them to Kranji War Memorial to reflect over how they would like at that juncture in their journey to offer themselves as a living sacrifice unto God. This experiential learning was poignant and helped to tie up everything they have learned and experienced into an appropriate response to God. For more pics and information go to wrpf.org.sg

Focusing Leaders’ Network by CRMS: a leadership course like no other

Most helpful process

It was probably the most helpful course I had taken. And there had been many over the years of pastoral ministry since 1980. Maybe it was about timing and fit. The Focused Leaders’ Course I attended several years ago, increased my understanding of God’s work in my life. It also clarified self understanding. Tools were picked up that aided me in moving towards a progressively clearer understanding of my personal calling.

Based on Robert Clinton’s research

The materials and ideas on which the course was based, originated from Robert Clinton’s research in Christian leadership. One of Robert’s mentees, Terry Wallings, with permission put them into the format and process that we are using in our workbooks. The course blessed me so much, I went through facilitator training, and now serve as a volunteer in the exco of the Church Resource Ministries Singapore(CRMS) and occasionally help out in facilitating their Focused Leaders Network(FLN) when my schedule allows. Together with a senior church leader, a lighter version of this called Focused Living, was also introduced to the church I serve, with a warm reception.

everyone talks, we facilitate

prayer for one another

Foursquare pastors with two missing and FLN facilitators

Foursquare Church pastors

Recently there was a group of Foursquare Church pastors who went through this course and it was my joy to co-facilitate with James Creasman, Founder-President of CRMSJames Creasman, the Founder-President of CRMS, Bishop Moses Tay, and Pastor Walter Lim of Grace AG. The Foursquare Church were great hosts and wonderful co-learners as we did most of the sessions in their beautiful headquarters. With good coffee, delicious delivered lunches, and million dollar sea view, who could ask for more. The sessions which were 8.30am to 4.30pm were not that taxing as most were discussions, self reflection, and interactions. These were enlightening times and facilitators learned as much as those attending.

Learning together and personal coaching sessions

Outside of the sessions each leader had a coaching appointment with the facilitator and that was where we gently pointed the pastors towards a clearer sense of God’s call on their lives as well as draw the practical implications on their roles, goals, and mentoring constellation.

Network means meals and friendship

Mealtimes and breaks were also times to get to know each other and to engage in light banter and more serious stuff, especially as the period also spanned over the two elections. Mostly we were talking shop – church scene, ministry, society.

It was a great privilege and joy to co-learn and journey along with pastors of big as well as small churches. For more information on what this ministry does and what courses are on offer go to the CRMS website.

Almost two months into the sabbatical

trekking the Bukit Timah hillListening to my body

Almost two months have passed. Physically, I have rested well. This April and May has been months when I listened closely to my body. Whenever I felt tired, I laid in bed and napped or slept. Most mornings I do not force myself to wake up. So it has been usually 8.30am or 9am when I have my breakfast. They say this is the best way to know how much sleep you need. My tentative conclusion is that I need about 8-9 hours of sleep each day.

Though I began with walking and jogging at the Chinese Garden, my preferred form of exercise and recreation is still trekking. So I have revived my Saturday trek with friends, and above that, during the weekdays I try to trek once or twice at Bukit Timah Hill or MacRitchie.  Such treks are gentle on the knees and on the heart. The air is great and the forest sounds and sights perk me up. Over the several weeks, I have been gradually trimming down and firming up.

Outside enrichment

The AGST MTh(Ed) modules were fun and the subjects and readings, lectures and interactions have been fruitful learning experiences for me. Forcing myself to research, reflect and write my papers have also been pleasantly smooth riding, despite my early anxiety.

Helping out as a facilitator once a month with the Focused Leaders Network (Church Resource Ministry Singapore) together with James Creasman, Bishop Moses Tay, and Rev. Walter Lim has been enjoyable. This is a platform for me to journey with pastors, in this instance, pastors from the Foursquare denomination in Singapore.

Spiritual refreshment

More time also meant more time for meditation, reading, reflection, prayer and journaling, and listening to sermons with my wife, mostly Paul White and Andrew Wommack. This last month I have been slowly nourishing my soul on Psalms 42 and taking time to pour out my heart or be quiet before Him.

Visiting churches as a layman is so nice, so nice. To be free from having to preach or minister and to fuss over program or people problems is like one prolonged sigh of relief. It was plain good, a cosy and relaxing change. It was pure indulgence: like peering into the horizon with sunglasses, and sipping watermelon juice at a beach, as white clouds quietly tiptoed by. And then being able to indulge my spiritual palate in different church services and sermons, like a wandering charismatic, has become a prolonged epicurean feast I hope I do not become addicted to.

Anxiety squashed by word

Even as the days passed, colourful as they were, with a Kuala Lumpur jaunt and a chest thumping week of witnessing the Singapore election, anxiety about whether the days were productively spent bugged me for a while. For a Singaporean, even resting and restoration is an objective to strain for. So as the days passed quickly you wondered if God will get everything done that I wanted Him to get done in me. Mercifully, some peace prevailed after the Lord gave me a status update, “Enjoy each day as a gift and trust Me to accomplish in you all that needs to be accomplished by the end of the sabbatical”. That is so assuring and going forward, I will rest on that word.

Google reader

Recently, I have also learned how to use the Google Reader. Transferred all the blogs and websites I usually read from my blogroll and Favourites and moved them all there for efficient access and pleasure. This has been available for some time, but I am usually a late adopter when it comes to such things. I am still not on Twitter.

Why pastors resign

pastors salary

Recent spate of resignations

News of the resignation of two prominent pastors surprised me. It was announced in Riverlife Church, a megachurch in Pasir Ris, that Rev Vincent Lun, their senior pastor has resigned. Then I heard that so has Rev Melvyn Mak, the deputy senior pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. These two in the wake of recent resignations of pastors from New Creation Church, City Harvest and Church of our Savior who have served faithfully in their respective congregations. Then there is the forthcoming retirement of many senior and experienced Anglican priests in the next few years.

Push and pull factors

It made me realize that though I have given thought to why members leave a church, little have I thought or written about why pastors resign. It was a rare thing in the many years that I have served, but recently it seemed like the drizzle of the past has turned into a tropical downpour. So why do pastors resign? Common sense, anecdotal hearsay and guesswork is all you need to draw up a list of push and pull factors. A combination of push and pull factors are usually involved in any pastor’s resignation.

resisting change

Push factors

-Frustration over resistance to positive change.

-Unhappiness with some in church board or congregation, usually precipated by conflict or disagreement.

-Pastor finds insufficient support for his vision or strategy.

-Pastor is discouraged or burnt-out and there is no provision for sabbatical or rest.comparisons and competition

-A stifling system invented out of distrust of a pastor’s consecration to God, dedication to the ministry.

-No chemistry with leadership or staff team. Personality clashes with key people.

-Disillusionment about people, leaders, and the way church is done.

-Frustration over inability to meet up to unrealistic expectations of church and self.

-Disunity and politicking in the church.

-Autocratic, unreasonable  “boss” or board.

-Poor fit of one’s gifts with the position.

-The shove of mandatory retirement age or poor health.

endless needs, needs, needs

Pull factors

-Called to another kind of ministry: whether missions, a para-church ministry or to plant a different kind of church.

-Attracted by greater freedom, flexibility and trust, or by its opposite: a clear structure and order and policy.

-Children have grown up and are independent and the need to provide financially for their education is lifted.

-Greater awareness of one’s true passion, gifts and wiring and the fit is better outside church.

Its time to move on.-Too long in a place and restlessness beckoning for a change of scenery or challenge.

-Pastor’s conviction that they have done what they could with the team and people and a change would be good for the church.

-Emigration to another country.

-Finding expression for one’s changes in convictions about doctrine, philosophy of ministry or vision, that the church cannot provide space or acceptance for.

– Better compensation and terms so that there is more than enough to meet the family’s needs, and to give to others.

-Maximizing one’s experience and insight in the senior years to focus on passing on the baton to the next generation.

And you might want to add other factors in the comment box…..