My church has a National Service ministry, where young men are discipled to fight for the things of the Kingdom.
I joined the NS ministry, thinking that it’d be a fun place. Honestly, I fully expected to be playing LAN games and watching football matches at bars. In our first meeting however, I discovered that nothing could be further from the truth — all of us young men were completely exhausted after a week in camp.
It wasn’t all fun and games.
In time, God revealed to me that I faced an incredible opportunity in this season of hardship. The NS ministry in church wouldn’t just be a place just to come to on the weekends and whine. Here, I would able to fellowship with and disciple young men to fight also for the Kingdom.
Looking back, I now see that the NS ministry was a soldier’s shelter from the storm. Here’s why.
WHY EVERY CHURCH NEEDS AN NS MINISTRY
1. IT’S A SAFE SPACE FOR MEN TO SHARE
Most men struggle with lust. To talk about our struggles in a mixed-gender setting isn’t easy — and it’s probably not wise, too. But in a community of men, we were able to encourage and help each other up whenever we stumbled (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
The openness, accountability and vulnerability was like nothing I had experienced in a mixed-gender group. We were very counter-culture: No crude jokes, no objectification of sisters. Many of us even gained victory over sexual sin.
2. IT CAN ACCOMMODATE AN NSF’S SCHEDULE
NSFs – Full-time NSmen – are pressed for time. There are few better tests of one’s character and values than the 2 years we spend in NS. Our priorities completely change when time becomes more precious than money:
- We have to stay in camp on the weekdays
- Saturday/Sunday is “burnt” attending church service and small group meeting
- We have to book in on Sunday evening
Time is scarce. We struggle to carve it out for ourselves, our families and friends, without sacrificing spiritual nourishment and fellowship.
For NSFs in groups which meet on weekdays, it’s difficult to remain plugged in — unless the group makes the effort to reach out to him through other means. But in an NS-specific ministry, that’s a scenario that isn’t a concern. We all respect the limits of 2359.
3. IT’S A SUPPORT GROUP WHICH PUSHES US TO CHOOSE GOD
When in camp, NSFs are thrust into a culture which not merely condones, but celebrates premarital sex, binge-drinking, and crass language.
In such a context, standing firm on Godly principles can sometimes be really hard. This is where a community helps and encourages us to choose God over easier, more tempting choices. There are many opportunities to either deny Him or lift his name up.
It’s easier to make the right choice when we make them together.
4. MEN TEND TO FALL AWAY FROM GOD DURING NS
Upon entering BMT, there are suddenly many reasons not to attend service or small group meetings. You could argue that these are valid reasons: Confinement, duty, family time, fatigue — all are defensible grounds. It becomes easy to place church lower in the hierarchy of priorities.
Over time, we develop more reasons not to go than to go.
But there are indeed reasons to go: In a period of great transition, an NSF needs a strong community of men who understand — as all are going through the same thing — to support him as he embarks on his NS journey with God.
In the Army, we say there are no lone-wolf soldiers. There should be no lone-wolf Christians, too.
5. WE LEARN WHAT IT MEANS TO PURSUE PEOPLE
The number of times a NSF get to use his phone while in camp each day can often be counted on one hand. When you text us, you’ll often have to wait for hours — even days — for a reply. For those of us who are leaders, we know how easy sheep are lost when it gets messy. It helps to have a community which pursues them as you do.
Though we don’t have time, NSFs still need to be plugged-in socially. We still want to know others, and be known by them. A band of Christian brothers, genuinely interested in journeying together, is likely to keep going together.
6. TOUGHENING MEN UP REQUIRES TOUGH MEN
At some point in my first few months of serving in the NS ministry, I realised I wasn’t leading youths anymore. Boys had become young men who wouldn’t take the generic answer of “because the Word says so” anymore. These were my peers.
There were difficult times when I couldn’t reach someone I was mentoring for days on end because of some Army mission he assigned to. There were weeks when only 3 of us showed up to our small group meeting.
But we persevered.
At the end of a young man’s time with the NS ministry — before moving on to the varsity ministry — there have been always exemplary soldiers of God who came out better, refined in the fire. It always brings me so much joy to see them eager to serve, lead and bless others in their next life station.
That’s when I know that God brought them through those years. Those years produce, and need tough men.
7. WE’RE RAISING FATHERS
Don’t see NSmen as merely stinky army boys. Look past the uniform and you’ll see tomorrow’s leaders. Tomorrow’s husbands. Tomorrow’s fathers.
I chose to invest my youth in them not because in a time where our faith is deemed increasingly irrelevant, we have to fight even harder to instil godly values and principles in our men.
Daniel in the Bible didn’t have the easiest time living out his faith, exiled among the Jews in Babylon. But when he did — when he went counter-culture though it was easy to go with the flow — miracles happened. Idols were brought down, and kings recognised the King of Kings.
If you’re a current NSF who doesn’t have a community of Christian NSFs, I urge you to do something about it. Start by gathering fellow brothers and meeting up regularly even though you have no time. I know of Christians in the same company who say prayers for as short as 2 minutes together — right after they are dismissed from RO.
Plug yourselves in. Stay plugged in. Make time.
NS isn’t your excuse — it’s your opportunity.