I had neither planned nor considered going full-time. It was just never in my plan.
I came to know God at 15 and started serving Him as a pastoral leader in the youth ministry at 17.
I was a Life Group Leader and subsequently became a Unit Leader, overseeing multiple life groups at once.
I then became a District Leader who oversaw about 80 secondary school students at 23 (which was also when I went full-time).
So, I’ve always been very involved in church.
Indeed, in my university days, apart from the youth ministry, I was in the church’s dance ministry as well. I also planned events and camps for the youth ministry.
All of these things, like mentoring and leading the youth, helped me to grow a love for helping young people grow up well with God and wanting to help them see how every part of their lives can be lived with God.
And yet, full-time was never in my plan.
The knee-jerk “no”
Like most other university students, I already had a rough plan for life after graduation.
I did an internship with a place I really, really wanted to go to, and my supervisor gave me a soft offer after graduation.
My rough plan was to join the company since I enjoyed my internship journey.
But in my second last semester, my District Leader at the time was looking for someone to take over his role.
He invited me to take on this role because it was getting increasingly difficult for him to serve in youth ministry while balancing the increasing demands of work.
I was confused. It didn’t make sense to me to replace a working adult leader with another, even more inexperienced working adult leader (which I would only soon become) especially since engaging with the students and being available are crucial in youth ministry.
“I don’t want to because I already had a plan for my life and it was already in motion.”
That was when he added, “There’s a part two… Do you want to work in the church full-time?”
I immediately responded with a hard “no”. When he told me that the youth pastor wanted to have a chat with me, I wasn’t keen whatsoever.
All I could think was: “I don’t want to because I already had a plan for my life and it was already in motion.”
But when I went home, I was super disturbed by how strong my reaction was.
Throughout my life, I’ve always made adjustments to avail myself for God and the youth ministry.
I was also already planning to avail myself to serve God in the youth ministry even as an adult.
This was the first time, in a long time, that I strongly didn’t want to do something for God – in spite of always being excited to serve God! It was a knee-jerk “no”.
Unravelling my fears
I was unsettled by my “no”, so I spent time sitting on why I was so hesitant and found three reasons.
Firstly, I already had a plan for my life – and I was looking forward to it. It was unnerving for me to deviate from my plan and career path.
Secondly, the career path I had in mind wasn’t particularly self-centred. I intended to do something related to social service and it involved serving and helping to meet the needs of people. I would’ve loved the opportunity to do it and I felt that God had placed it in my heart.
Thirdly, there were my parents’ thoughts about the matter. Growing up, my parents always had high hopes for me to succeed in life. They always wanted me to have a comfortable life. They’re also not believers, so I never could imagine breaking the news to them.
While all these were valid reasons, after sitting on it longer, I came to realise and admit that the strongest reason why I didn’t want to go full-time was actually because I didn’t want to take a pay cut.
With the path I had planned, I would’ve been financially comfortable. I might not have become filthy rich, but I would be comfortable.
As such, having to take a pay cut was something I felt like I didn’t want to do.
Can’t I live a comfortable life and still serve God? Is it necessary to take it to such an extreme by going full-time?
As I verbalised these thoughts, however, I was uncomfortable with how I presented myself before the Lord.
Prior to this, whenever God put something in my heart, I would always try to obey Him and take joy even when I wrestled.
At that moment, it was clear to me that the one thing stopping me from wanting to do something more for God was money. And that made me feel silly.
I grew up comfortable. It wasn’t that we were extremely rich, we just had a comfortable life and it was something my parents had always hoped for us to have as we became adults.
They would joke about how it would be our turn to bring them on vacations, and that it was important to always live with a good amount of savings for a rainy day.
And so to me, the decision didn’t just involve a job; all my expectations of what life was going to be like were being challenged.
I spent a long time wrestling because I knew that this was an area God wanted me to grow in, but it was immensely difficult walking away from the life I had envisioned for myself.
Wrestling, wrestling, wrestling
I wrestled with God for months. I remember praying and asking God to speak to me about it, but I also knew that my lack of surrender made it difficult to obey Him.
Week after week, it was very clear that God was telling me not to put my security in the world.
We would sing Crowns by Hillsong Worship every service’s praise and worship, and I knew that God was reminding me not to put my worth on the things of the world.
One of the most pivotal moments came when I was at a leaders’ meeting, which was about why the church is the hope of the world and why the church is so important.
I sobbed like mad. It was the kind of sobbing when you start to breathe super loudly and I knew that people could hear me but I just couldn’t stop.
I remember the night before, I was sharing with my friend about these struggles. She identified with them, though she wasn’t particularly pushing me to overcome these struggles.
But at the end of the leadership meeting, she messaged me and told me: “I’m sorry for saying all these things. Go and follow what God has in store for you.”
This made me realise that while my concerns were legitimate, they were also very small compared to what God had invited me into.
At this time, I was still 50/50 in my decision to join full-time ministry. I was more convicted, but still remained consumed by my concerns.
The next pivotal moment came when there a guest speaker visited my church service.
I still remember so clearly what he said: “Our greatest fear in life shouldn’t be failing, but in succeeding in something that doesn’t matter.”
I knew then that God was speaking to me about my life.
I had built up such a clear idea of what success looked like, and deeply believed that I would’ve done well and thrived in the corporate world – but it was very coloured by my personal ambition to make a name for myself.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I vividly remember singing Christ Is Enough by Hillsong Worship and responding: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”
I wasn’t at 100/0, but 80/20 because I definitely still had my fears. It was like I stepped out of the boat, but was trembling and shaking, thinking that I would sink.
But I decided that I didn’t want to let the fear consume me, so I asked my youth pastor to meet me, shared with him my journey and gave him my yes.
My yes was more than just a “yes”
The invitation to come full-time revealed to me an idol in my heart: my love for money.
My love for money was so strong that I was willing to walk away from what God has called me to do.
So, my decision to come full-time was also a statement: to break the chain that money had on me and declare that nothing stands between God and me.
My decision to say yes didn’t magically take away my concerns and anxieties about money.
However, I came to understand that God revealed this area for my own good – so that my love for money wouldn’t consume me.
I want to live my life caring about what God thinks and to be intentional to live for God and not myself.
This guides me in my daily life from how I talk to someone, to who I am when no one is watching, to the big things like whether I can stand before God and say that I’ve tried my best in whatever He has entrusted me with.
A God beyond boxes
Since my decision to enter full-time ministry in 2016, I’ve gotten the privilege to be more involved in the youth ministry, work closely with my pastors and see the behind-the-scenes work.
In 2018, I was 24 and was one year into full-time ministry when my senior pastor invited me to pioneer HOPE Tokyo (my church’s mission efforts in Japan).
Before this, I never considered myself to be a “missions person”. I always believed that I was more suited for local ministry since my family is here and I was effective here.
But, to my own surprise, when my senior pastor asked me, I didn’t hesitate to say: “Sure! Why not?”
Looking back on it, it seems so crazy because I was just a 24-year-old bringing other young people to spend time and reach out to the locals in Japan, starting a church from zero and travelling to Japan every month to sow seeds there.
In just one year of serving God full-time, I no longer saw things in boxes anymore.
I just want to “love God and love what God loves”, that’s why I was willing to go.
In the past two years, I have had to wrestle with my full-time calling again because I started to feel worried and anxious about the many financial needs coming my way.
For instance, I got married and we rented a house while preparing for the renovation of the BTO flat.
I also started to think more about my life after youth ministry. This happened after my husband, who was previously a leader in the youth ministry, moved on to the adults ministry,
What’s life going to look like after youth ministry? Do I change my job?
I was at a point in my life when my peers started to do well in their careers, and it was easy to feel small because I had to worry about money.
I started to wonder if I should explore an alternative career after I was done with youth ministry, and even considered enrolling myself in a Master’s programme to up-skill myself.
I felt I had a closing window as I was coming to the end of my 20s and felt that this was my last chance to make a career switch.
But during my church’s conference in 2022, God spoke to me through the ACS Clocktower documentary that was being screened.
It was when Canon James Wong spoke about how he dedicated his life to see revival happen and how it was still something on his heart.
That message by Canon James in the documentary was given shortly before he passed away.
I couldn’t stop crying when I heard it. I just kept crying and crying. I was so moved by these people’s hearts for God and His people.
… a small part of me despised that I was called to go full-time at such a young age.
The Holy Spirit had already invited me to be a part of God’s mission, yet a small part of me despised that I was called to go full-time at such a young age.
I wanted that sense of achievement, that I could make it in the corporate world but I knew that a lot of it was concerned with being glorious in the eyes of man.
When God spoke to me, I immediately thought: “I need to repent. I need to repent for living my life as if God won’t take care of me, as if God doesn’t care for my needs.”
I also repented for despising my calling and treating it so lightly, even envying a life without this calling.
I came to a point after the conference where my heart became fully convicted: wherever God calls me to, I will gladly give myself to Him.
Ever since then, I’ve not looked back. This is where I am – settled and thankful to be where I am and excited for where God leads me.
Your prime is God’s time
To those who are considering serving in ministry or going full-time, I want to share something my husband said that has stuck with me.
Why shouldn’t God’s church be worth your best years? Why shouldn’t the church get good people – people who are competent and good.
It’s not foolish to give the best years of your life to serving full-time. If you’re given a chance to consider it, I hope that it’ll be an option for you.
Investing in ministry isn’t lesser than investing in a career. What God has called you to do is so precious.
So, include full-time as a possible dream. Don’t just dream about glorious dreams in the eyes of the world, but dream about pouring into the Kingdom of God.
- Do you have a plan for your life?
- Where is God in that plan?
- What does giving your prime to God mean?
- What is God calling you to do today?