On three separate occasions, I was approached by three different people with the challenge to serve in a hostel ministry that I had never heard of. I declined all three times, reasoning that it was a ministry that I had nothing to do with.
Back then, I was about to complete my second year of undergraduate studies and was a member of another hall’s ministry. I had never led a ministry, nor did I aspire to take up any leadership positions.
But I had been allocated to stay in a nearby student residence, which was a five-minute walk from the hostel that I had been approached to serve in.
Two months later, I was made aware of this need again when the executive committee of my Christian student ministry spoke to me.
I learnt that unlike other hostels on campus, this hall had no contact group (CG, similar to cell group), which meant there was no community of believers who gathered regularly for the glory of God.
With the new ministry, the intention was also to see members of this CG reach out and share the Good News with their neighbours in hall. Simply put, there was a chance for them to engage in missions at their doorstep.
Believing in the need for evangelism on campus, I agreed to pioneer this new ministry together with two other Christians from my residence.
It has been a humbling experience – one that has given us the opportunity to grow spiritually and learn from one another. On top of that, God has also used this experience to remind me of His goodness.
I’d like to share a few lessons I learnt along the way:
1. YOU NEED LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
We may be talented in our own ways, but we also need advice and help from one another. When one of us falls, at least we have each other’s back (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
God led us to the right person who could best help us. We were linked up with a Christian who was part of the hall’s student leadership. He helped with not only making this new ministry official, but also publicising it and weekly room bookings.
God really opened the doors wide for the ministry to be started, through opportunities and placing people at the right place and right time.
During the first session, more than 15 residents showed up, which exceeded the numbers in some other hostel ministries!
I learnt is that it is important to venture into something new with like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ. Unity begins with God’s love (Philippians 2:1-2) for us to see God’s heart.
2. YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO NAVIGATE A NEW CULTURE
As each hostel has its own unique culture, we had to spend time with our CG to better understand the issues they faced in school and hall.
I started to attend the hostel’s events, supporting my members when they performed for their hall band or hall productions. I started to immerse myself in the new culture and environment – so much so that some residents even thought I was residing in that hall!
The approach of Christianity is to seek the transformation of culture, not its abolition.
In the second semester, I was given an opportunity to change hostels. I made an application and was accepted.
This helped in furthering the ministry, but it also meant that I needed to contribute in other areas of hall life such as in sports, culture or administration. Surprisingly, I was willing to take up various roles and managed to stay on the following year.
This experience reminded me that the approach of Christianity is to seek the transformation of culture, not its abolition. Our Christian faith can also be enriched when we come into contact with a new culture.
3. YOU NEED LOTS OF PRAYER
Even though it was God who gave the assignment of starting a new CG, it was our duty to pray and encourage one another (Colossians 4:2).
There were ups and downs in this spiritual journey. For instance, when nobody turned up for CG, the leaders prayed.
God also led us to do prayer walks in the hall. We visited our CG members in their hostel rooms to spend about five minutes to talk and pray with them. Prayer taught us to catch the heart of God and to put the ministry in God’s hand.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
4. YOU WILL SEE GOD MOVE
When our CG members grew closer to one another as a result of doing Bible study and praying together, we were able to begin evangelising.
We had pre-believers attending a few of our sessions and wanting to understand the Christian perspective on topics such as studying and dating. Essentially, we brought the Church to the hall for seeds to be planted.
We have also held activities with other student groups in the hall to raise awareness of the need to care for one another as residents.
Here are two examples of the many activities we had:
We purchased and packaged the snacks for the residents during the exam period. We also taped a note on the snack with an encouraging Bible verse and an invitation for them to come for future fellowships.
This gave our CG an opportunity to invest some time in people, with a short interaction and prayer (if the resident allowed for it).
Grades are important, but that should not be the main highlight for university education. People around us are more important (Philippians 2:3)!
Caring for people working in our hostel
Our hall’s security guard told me about his health problems and unhappiness that he was facing at work. Since his birthday was approaching, our CG decided to buy him a cake and celebrate his birthday to bring some joy to him.
However, the entire block got to know about the celebration, and many people wanted to join in as they found it meaningful. After some coordination, we wrote him cards and surprised him together on his birthday!
Our security guard was evidently happier after his birthday, and other hall residents showed care for him in their own ways.
It has been four years since this ministry was started. At the one-year mark, I handed over the ministry to five new leaders and provided assistance when they needed help. Even after I completed my undergraduate degree and moved on to do my postgraduate studies, the ministry continued to meet with new leaders at the helm.
When I was working on my PhD project, God reminded me of His goodness when I remembered this experience of pioneering. This is because almost all PhD projects require something novel.
Perhaps God had used this experience to prepare me all along before I could start something new in the secular world.
If you’re involved in planting churches, or starting a new ministry or cell group, I hope that you’ll continue to seek God in all that you do. God works in our ministries differently, and He will open or close doors to lead our ministries to do His works. I pray that we’ll listen to God’s direction and trust that He will see our ministries through.
If you’re having a tough time and feel that you have failed in the pioneering work, I pray that you’ll be encouraged by these stories below:
- My heart broke when my mentees left church
- Have you lost heart
- 3 truths for when you feel inadequate
Remember that God has not left the business of working through us to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).