It’s been a few days since the FOPx Research 2023 study was released, and after our first article that dissected the insights we thought we’d switch gears and talk to some of the friends behind the figures.
We had a quick chat with JOY LEE and ISAAC ONG, two of the many passionate young church leaders who had a hand in reviewing and analysing the data, sandboxing solutions, compiling reports and more.
Was there a specific moment in the pandemic that cemented the vision behind the survey? What were your team’s intentions?
ISAAC: The idea of the survey was birthed when FOPx was exploring the idea of starting a school. We did not want to create programmes or activities that sounded useful but were actually not effective and would not help serve the churches and youth ministries in Singapore.
We decided that we wanted to do a study on youth ministries and also identify the key needs and difficulties of our youth pastors and leaders, so that we would better be able to craft our programmes.
The pandemic was the perfect time to do it as many programmes and events had to take a back seat, so we decided to embark on this as we waited for things to open up. It was our way to serve the city during a time our events were limited.
Beyond FOPx programmes, we wanted to put together a book of findings and recommendations that will allow our churches to be able to better understand our youth ministries, pastors and leaders and see how we can work together to strengthen the youth ministries, and build a strong church.
How did you guys feel during the process (like looking at the data or having actual conversations with interviewees)?
ISAAC: While the process was long, it was beautiful to see different pastors from churches and denominations come together to see how we can help one another, the nation and the generation.
It was insightful to hear how others did church differently, and also at the same time all felt the same about some difficulties and struggles.
It quickly allowed us to highlight what were things that needed immediate attention and should be prioritised.
The interviews were heartening as our interviewees from Senior Pastors, to Youth Pastors, Leaders and even ex-youth leaders, spoke openly, honestly and candidly.
It was also humbling to see how we all have missteps, gaps and difficulties.
Did the findings confirm or conflict with your hypotheses?
JOY: The findings did confirm quite a few of my hypotheses regarding youth ministries in Singapore, especially the issue of the relevance of Christianity in a complex world.
I believe this is an especially intense challenge for youth ministries because youths are constantly informed nowadays and being exposed to worldviews that have been imported through their extensive use of social media.
With Singapore’s social media use being one of the highest globally — 82.5% of total population — and the fact that online behaviour consists of much virtue signalling such as through likes and shares, we now have opinions and perspectives being thrown at youths at a speed never seen before.
Having said that, I don’t think we are at all in a losing battle. Biblical precepts can withstand modern-day interrogation and prove themselves good and true in public discourse. Sure, it will take time and effort for us to strengthen our articulation, but the work will be worthwhile.
Psalm 19:8 reads: “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” So, I think we will be surprised!
Having uncovered these findings, what gives you hope for the road ahead?
JOY: While the study largely covers areas of improvement that the churches may need to look into, the best finding was discovering the under-tapped opportunity behind the inter-generational approach to youth ministry.
We need to shift our mindset from generational divide to generational opportunity. If there’s one place the generational divide can be turned into generational unity for the good of many — it will be the Church.
It was refreshing to see that most respondents from youth ministries were looking out for inter-generational support.
We need adults to testify to youths with their stories, who will share that there is another route to thriving in life than the one the world offers. Their experience and hospitality bear high potential in attracting and developing the next generation.
There’s a lot of beauty and power to be uncovered in a whole-church, inter-generational approach to reaching youths.
What do you hope leaders and believers will do with the info?
JOY: Use it as a conversation starter with leaders in the church. The report and study might reaffirm and encourage the leadership in what they are already doing — that can bring a great deal of encouragement.
As leaders, we can also use the report to reconsider our priorities to help us plan our manpower resources.
If not, use it to guide your prayers for youth ministry and its leaders too. Our hope is that the local churches in Singapore will be strengthened through it. We believe that the best days of the Church are truly ahead!
If you enjoyed this, keep a look out for two more articles on this topic. We’ll be speaking to a youth pastor on the ground for her response to some of the study’s ideas, as well as dissecting the proposed ideas ourselves!