Student-Led Ministry: Three Reasons Why We Must Hold It Dearly (GS Letter Sept 2020)
I have been re-reading the July 2020 issue of the FES newsletter Perspective (see online at http://fellowship.sg/resources/fes-publications/newsletter/perspective/) on “Leadership After”. Out of many, there are two take-aways I would like to share here. First, FES is not only a ministry to students, but also, more importantly, a ministry by students to their fellow students and the whole ecosystem of their campus. Secondly, our students are coming from a fragile and hurting generation. Combining both, it means the we believe that the very crucial player of this ministry – the student, is so-called, in fact the “weakest link”. It is indeed a counter-intuitive approach.
Nevertheless, despite their apparent fragility and brokenness, we will not give up on them nor take their cup of tea and rob them of the chance to lead. Student-led and student-initiated are indeed one of our irreplaceable distinctives. Allow me to share with you three reasons why I hold this strongly.
First, “students today, leaders tomorrow” is not just a slogan. I’ve learnt that when we look at their potential, beyond their current mishaps and idiosyncrasies, we can then serve them with confidence and hope. On many occasions, God has shown me how short-sighted my thinking was towards many of our student leaders whom I had initially deemed incompetent or irresponsible. To my delight, many of them have now become leaders in their churches, transforming voices in their neighbourhoods and spheres of influence, and godly fathers and mothers to their young kids.
Second, a student is the best “missionary” on campus. As much as the so-called experts and more experienced people, like staff workers or theologically trained pastors, put effort to reach out to the students on campus, none of them can beat the students themselves. Not only through ingenious programmes and initiatives (like Christian Awareness Night, Late Night Apologia, etc.), but also in the daily encounters our students have, which are natural, constant, and deeply impactful on their fellow non-Christian students. I can roughly calculate that, of those stories I am aware of in the last one decade, three-quarters of the students who came to know Christ on campus have been brought by their fellow Christian students.
Third, never underestimate what students can do and become when they are passionate and driven by a cause. I can also testify how our students fervently led their new Christian friends to the fellowship and small group Bible studies. Besides that, there have been numerous projects and ideas in which our students took on to cultivate changes for the common good of the campus and society (like Engineering for Good, Project Gratitude, Discover Forgiveness, etc.)
Hence, I believe that one key responsibility the FES staff team must take seriously and carry out diligently, is to train and equip the student leaders. There have been many occasions our staff have done so in the past. Let me share with joy one recent example with you. The Indonesian Ministry just had a Student Leaders’ Summit, which was a combined training for the CF Excos. On three separate dates (25 Jul, 8 and 29 Aug) and through Zoom, over 30 student leaders with their staff workers and various speakers went through topics like vision of student ministry, challenges in digital ministry, and mental health matters. Above is one snapshot of their Zoomfie.
As I am now nearing the end of my term as General Secretary, I often ask myself if I have done enough. Besides being faithful in whatever God has entrusted us, each time I look back at our student leaders in the past and observe our current ones, He also consoles me, saying that as He has raised many Christ-like leaders of the past generations, He is and will be the One who continues to raise many more in the future. And for this assurance, I am gratefully contented.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalms 115:1, ESV)
In His grace,