The eighth Presence Conference organized by C3 Church in Sydney happened from April 22 to 25 this year. Edwin Ong, a City Harvest Church member who was there, was exceptionally impacted by the youth service. He shared his experience with City News.
Pastor Chad Veach, who preached at Presence Conference, said that youth ministry is “a kingdom within a kingdom” in church–it is the only ministry that can function independently. Referencing 2 Samuel 3:1, King David’s house became stronger because of the people in the house. The strength of the church in 10 to 15 years is largely determined by the level at which the youth ministry is functioning at, because they youth are the future of the church congregation. We must heavily invest in the youth and inspire them to be spiritual and successful in their life. The fruits of the youth are not for the now but for the future. Youth ministry makes the house stronger.
What impacted me most were the things I saw in the youth ministry in C3 Church. I have attended numerous youth camps and meetings over the years. I have planned many games in the camps and led the campers in many different camp cheers. As a praise and worship leader myself, I have used every gimmick I know–from “body surf” to “water splash” to jumping off from chairs–in the high-energy praise and worship sessions.
However, I am humbled by what I saw at Presence.
As leaders, we always aim to create a platform for the youth to grow and experience God in a great way. Yet, it becomes an obstruction for the youth’s development when we hesitate to let them take charge, for fear that they will compromise the quality of the meetings. We much prefer to “take the stage” ourselves to ensure that the services and camps are conducted with a certain level of excellence.
My mindset changed when I saw 14- and 15-year-olds running the show in the C3 Presence Youth Conference. The photographer for the meeting was merely 14. He stood on a chair because he was too short, and took photographs of the entire youth meeting. Immediately I thought to myself: What was I doing at age 14? I was still only rising up as a helper in the cell group, learning from the next-in-line leader! We have to change. We have to allow the next generation to be the doers rather than hearers of the Word.
The praise and worship in the youth service was not as good as that of the main service, but it was good enough! It was sufficient for the youth to “dance on God’s great dance floor” (a Chris Tomlin song). The songleader leading praise wore a wifebeater and jeans; he was not dressed to impressed, he was dressed to sweat! Looking at the songleaders, they could not be older than 22. Comparatively, I only became cell group leader at 22!
The youth congregation was just as radical; they abandoned their seats and danced wildly at the stage front during praise and worship–that was some “freedom of expression”. As leaders, we often get uptight when newcomers start to talk rowdily and “disturb” others. These kids in the youth service would seem like they did not know how to behave; they were screaming and shouting as they liked. Yes, there was disorder, but the way I see, it was freedom and liberty. Why limit the youth and not let them be themselves?
I was inspired by the way the youths took charge of their own youth service. Haggai 2:9 says “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.”
Can City Harvest youths do the same? I believe they can.
Edwin Ong has been serving as a youth cell group leader for six years. Coming to City Harvest Church as anti-social teen filled with pride and low self-esteem, the youth ministry in CHC changed his life and made him a firm believer of building up the lives of youth. He sees great value in training up mentors and role models for the next generation; people that can inspire others to love God and love people, and to reach their fullest potential, using the talents that God has given them.
Ong also spoke to Ben Bruce, 21, Production Manager of C3 Youth on how, as a youth, he was serving his generation.
Production is such a time consuming thing because I have to be in church as much as I am serving. I will need to consciously look after my spiritual health in order to look after the team, making sure they are all good. I do that by trying to make life easy so that we can all focus in service and by always making a conscious decision to focus on Christ.
Serving in church take a lot of your time. How do you balance your time in school, and how do you cope with peer pressure?
I went through various stages of trying one thing and another. The biggest thing is trying to get all your stuff done so that when you are at church, you are at church. For a couple of years, I sort of try to do a bit of homework during breaks but after a while, spiritually it wasn’t good for me to split my time up for school, other things in life and for church. I stopped doing that and tried to be more focused on just being in church—and through that I’m able to build a team and just see things that I wouldn’t be able to see if I’m doing all that half-half.
How many people do you have serving under you at this moment?
We have 20 people in our youth production team at Oxford Falls. At any one given service, we probably have about four and during conferences, we have people joining our team from other campuses so that goes up to about 20 or 30. We try to keep our team close (through fellowship); like tonight we are going out for dinner as a team, and it actually has nothing to do with the conference. It is just to build strong friendship, so that we actually know what is going on in the volunteers’ lives and are able to help by giving advice and praying for them, to build a real connection.
The youth who are serving are all very young: they start as young as 12, 13. How do they find the confidence to handle sound and lyrics at such a young age?
It is a God thing. Stuff goes wrong all the time with no reason why it won’t work; but there have also been countless time when the service starts, everything just falls into place. I think it is to just draw confidence from God: it is His church, He will build it. He asks us to turn up and be part of it.
What do you have to say to inspire the next generation?
Church is such a great place for us to come to worship, be blessed and be taught. Just by staying in church and building on strong connections will help us to grow. Later in life when things get tough as a young adult, or when you finish school, move to university and live changes, keeping the strong friendship (in church) that encourages you in your faith is so important.