Ministry Moved Online: Blessings and Challenges (GS Letter June 2020)

It has been almost six months since the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in Singapore. We are grateful to the Lord that the Covid-19 pandemic situation here is reasonably under control. Though it may not be fully over yet, economic and social activities have resumed in phases. Reunions and meetings of families and friends who were not able to meet face-to-face during the Circuit Breaker (CB) period have taken place, especially in the Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening.

In my last four letters I have been sharing my thoughts and reflections of the Covid-19 pandemic and how it has impacted our lives. There will be more for us to learn and unlearn in the New Normal period ahead, but for this month let me depart from this subject and instead, share with you more about the FES ministry.

Our passion to reach out and serve students remain the same, however in the last three months, the way this has been carried out has been revolutionised. Due to the CB, all student meetings – small group Bible study sessions, large and small group fellowships, and even AGMs, have been put online. To give you an illustration of how extensive it has been, below is the last 30 days data I took from the FES Zoom account, which our staff workers have been mostly using for online meetings with students and graduates.

187 Meetings
312,700 Meeting Minutes
3,838 Participants

During that period, there were:

  • 187 meetings (an average of 6.2 online meetings per day)
  • 312,700 meeting minutes or 5,211 hours (or an average of 173 meeting hours/day). This means each staff worker, on average, has been attending online meetings for roughly 5.4 hours/day (assuming a 7-day work week). The number of hours is even more if it is based on a standard 5-day work week.
  • 3,838 participants (daily average: 128 students and graduates joined the meetings)

The above numbers are unbelievable in contrast to similar data in March before the CB period: 1.4 meetings/day and 1.1 hours/day respectively. It is a staggering five-fold increase. The above data does not include other online platforms that our staff and students may have used (e.g. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Discord, etc.)

I heard many encouraging reports from our staff team, that not only the average Christian Fellowship (CF) attendance increased considerably, but a steady and growing discipleship is observed online as well.

Last week a record number of 100 student leaders attended the online NUS VCF Leadership Preparation Camp (LPC). Before that, the CFs at SP and NP experienced higher than expected freshmen joining their Welcome Teas. Similar occurrences were seen in other events that took place, for example, Late Night Apologia (LNA) held by the NTU Indonesian Students’ CF (ISCF) and The New Graduates Online Camp organised by the FES Chinese Work.

At the same time, a few of my staff told me that our students, as digital natives themselves, are still able to share their thoughts and lives genuinely and deeply online. Lives being transformed and commitments made to follow Christ more seriously are still happening. Even non-Christian students are more at ease to join online CF events and small groups.

While the above are legitimate reasons for us to be grateful, however, at the same time new challenges also arise in our staff’s work. First, the blurring of lines between work and personal life of our staff worker. As most ministry now is done from home, our staff could be inevitably ‘trapped’ to work non-stop. Second, it is not uncommon that student committee meetings either start or end at a late hour of the day – things that did not happen pre-CB as people needed to catch transport home. This has also potentially disrupted the normal body-clock of our staff.

I am personally appreciative to our staff team who has zealously risen to the challenges before us. You can see some of their heartfelt stories of adapting to this New Normal of student work in the rest of this e-newsletter. Kindly pray for our staff team, that the Lord will continue to grant them clarity of mind and openness to new possibilities, as they navigate this prolonged uncertain post-pandemic period.

In His grace,

Lisman Komaladi
General Secretary