Last week, City Harvest Church held its first ever CityFamilies (CFAM) Conference, featuring fun family competitions, eye-opening Q&A sessions with its senior pastors and over 40 online workshops on family-related topics.
Church is where Christians do life together with one another. Now in its 33rd year, CHC has members across just about every demographic in society, from young children to the elderly. To support its members going through various seasons of life (outside of the youth cohort Emerge) the church’s ministry to the family, CityFamilies, organised its inaugural conference last week.
The week began with a family devotion on 29 July, where young parents with children under the age of 12 gathered on Zoom and learned how to create a time of worship and devotion as a family. This was followed by two days of CFAM workshops on 4 and 5 August, which were divided into different categories: singlehood, marriage, parenting and bonus content, chiefly mental health. Church members were able to register for any two sessions of their choice. The workshops were conducted by trained professionals, leaders in the industries as well as CHC’s own staff members and pastors who have experience in these areas.
The conference closed with two question-and-answer sessions held over last weekend, where CHC’s senior pastor Kong Hee and his wife, Sun Ho fielded many questions members sent in prior to the sessions. The no-holds-barred nature of these two sessions helped to demystify some long-held beliefs and their answers were helpful and honest for many in the church congregation.
ADDRESSING THE SEASONS OF LIFE
Pastor Jeremy Choy, who oversees CityFamilies, explained that when the committee started planning for the conference, they looked beyond age groups, which is how CHC traditionally defines its congregation.
“We looked at seasons of life,” he explained. “Everyone of us transition out of Emerge and become young adults. That is the season of singlehood for many, then most people get married. After marriage, it’s natural for them to start a family and move on to parenting. We planned for these three big areas: singlehood, marriage and parenthood. We had fun deliberating on what activities we could put up to build atmosphere and create awareness, to put forth the family as a very important unit in the church.”
Beyond just dealing with the issues that affect church members in these three groups, Pastor Jeremy and the CFAM team focused on helping members build covenantal relationships. “Our focus is for people to have the right relationships, because the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of relationships,” he said. “When we understand how to relate to one another properly in each season, to behave lovingly in a covenantal manner, then we can flourish and thrive.”
Plans for the conference began in March, but Pastor Jeremy had not expected it to happen so soon. “When Pastor Kong and Sun confirmed the conference, we were surprised,” he admitted. “I do think it’s prophetic that this year, 2022, is also Singapore’s Year of the Family. And this is CHC’s first conference after Covid, a time when we are coming back together as a church.”
One special section of workshops centred on mental health. “One huge reason why the Senior Management Team and CFAM Committee decided to hold the conference this year was because we observed the mental and emotional stresses families experienced during Covid,” said Pastor Lynn Tan, a pastor with HarvestKidz and part of the CFAM Committee. “In addition, mental health issues amongst children, parents and adults are pressing and critical and need to be addressed. We hoped to equip members facing such issues with methods to manage these issues, and we also hoped to empower those wanting to help others undergoing mental stress.”
Pastor Veronica Tang, a fellow CFAM Committee member who also gave a workshop on mental health, added, “Beside strengthening them spiritually and emotionally, we hoped to strengthen the mental health of our members. Many married couples and families are constantly feeling stressed from balancing their work and family. For the conference, I conducted a mental health workshop titled “I Am Not Good Enough—Ways To cope With Parantal Guilt And Anxiety”. Many parents are feeling that they are not good enough, and they might be suffering from parental guilt such as not spending enough time with their children, not able to breastfeed, allowing their children too much screen time because they do not have enough time to spend with them. Through the workshop, I wanted them to know that God is partnering with them in the journey—they just have to trust Him and enjoy the journey.”
“Whenever there’s a mental health situation in the family, it is bound to affect relationships, so we wanted the church members to know what help and resources they can turn to,” added Pastor Jeremy. “We also covered topics like grief and spousal abuse, which we don’t normally talk about, which we believe would educate and help our members.”
The aim of the CFAM Conference is to support families and marriages and help them find strength and happiness. “As long as families and marriages are strong, they build up the church and society,” he noted.
Pastor Jeremy emphasised that the conference was put together by many. “It’s been the greatest privilege to see the whole church come together, with the creative departments implementing creative touches and HarvestKidz handling the online devotion, and Pastor Kong and Sun hosting the Q&A, which blessed so many people. It was a team effort: every joint and marrow supplied and brought forth this vision.”
Now that the conference is over, the CFAM Committee is studying the feedback received from last week to identify the hot topics for the next few years. “Relationships and mental resilience are the ‘bread and butter’ topics,” said Pastor Jeremy. “But we want to know what are the issues that concern our members the most, and it would be good to do longer workshops for those in future, to allow for more interaction so that our members get more out of the sessions.” The intention, he added, is for the cell group leaders in the church to have some basic knowledge about the topics covered and to know where to go for help.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM CFAM WORKSHOPS
On 4 and 5 August, 42 online workshops took place, spanning Singlehood, Marriage, Parenting and “bonus” workshops that covered mostly mental health issues like grief, dementia and trauma. We spoke to some church members who attended different workshops to find out what they learned.
Sing Qing, 28, attended the workshop Daniel Edison Lim taught on “Singleness, Dating and Marriage For Jesus”. “Daniel shared comprehensively about the Christian worldview on the different seasons of relationships,” she shared. “Each season is a gift to be stewarded. I learnt a lot, and am very inspired to live each season fully for Jesus.”
Emelia Lau, 23, who attended the same workshop said, “I like what Daniel said: ‘Don’t compare any of the phases—singleness, dating and marriage—to one another. None is better than the other’. My takeaway was that every phase that we go through is a ministry on its own, so whether we are single, dating or married, we can fulfil God’s calling in our lives. So there is no need to envy another phase. We can just enjoy the path we are on now and pray that God will lead us in His plans.”
City News writer Dawn Seow attended the marriage workshop “Restoring Sexual Intimacy”, taught by Adrian Chua and his wife Mae Wee. Adrian is the founder of Sower’s Wheat, a ministry that seeks to equip and prepare believers for God’s work in ministry by teaching them God’s Word.
“Adrian assured married couples that they can be holy and yet enjoy the gift of sexuality,” shared Dawn. “The main purpose of a sexual relationship is to create intimacy between a couple. He revealed that the most sensitive sexual organ is actually the brain; this means that before the couple engage in the sexual act, they need to first fulfil each other’s needs. The husband needs to first fulfil his wife’s emotional needs and the wife needs to admire her husbands, so that he feels desired sexually. For a man, their identity is very much linked to their sexuality because it affirms his masculinity.”
Adrian and Mae also provided a list of sexual busters, such as a couple going to bed at different times or making themselves unattractive in bed. At the end of the session, they reminded the attendees that the best way to build intimacy between a couple is to build spiritual intimacy which draws them together emotionally. The speakers encouraged couples to pray together every day.
The marriage workshop “Romance Your Partner with Style (using DiSC)” was taught by Rachel Tan, head of the Marriage Support Department at a social service agency who conducts marriage programmes and counselling support for couples and families. For the workshop, Rachel employed personality profiles DiSC to show how couples can effectively communicate with one another by understanding each other’s personality better, which helps each party to avoid having unrealistic expectations and disappointment over the spouse.
For example, a person with a D personality profile is more outgoing, task-focused and has strong pride. To romance them, their partners need to speak to them in a way that protects their ego. In an argument, it’s important to address the problem directly and avoid attacking their personality. Conversely, when romancing an S personality, a person needs to be patient because S personality types take time to organise their thoughts. In an argument, they do not react well to harsh words and impatience, and they need the affirmation that disagreements will not lead to the end of the relationship.
Lynn Choo, who attended Rachel’s workshop shared, “I wanted to attend a session with my fiancé and I hoped that we would walk away with information that is easy to understand, and skills that are easy to apply. In the session, I discovered that my easy-going fiancé was actually a secret D! We had a good laugh because I couldn’t believe that the little signs and behaviours had slipped past me all this while!”
The mental health workshops attracted many in the church. Clara Chiok En Bei, 28, who attended “The Art Of Grieving Well” by Joan Swee of Whispering Hope Singapore, shared, “I like how Ms Joan defines loss not only as death, but as ‘the end of or a change in a familiar pattern of behaviour’. This gives me a new perspective and teaches me to be more aware, accepting and gracious to my own feelings of loss, and to others too.”
Agnes Seah, 39, attended “Understanding Dementia”, taught by Eunice Tan from Dementia Singapore who covered how to spot the early signs of dementia. “It helped me to learn how to be more empathetic towards the elderly, which is a struggle for me,” she said. “Also, I learned that it’s important to think of how to keep the elderly active, and how to prevent and slow down the onset of dementia.”
Matherine Loo and her husband Eugene Tan attended four workshops in total, and told City News that they were blessed by the speakers’ sharing. They especially enjoyed “Making Marriage Fun” with Pastor Edmund Tay and his wife, Jiahui. “The workshop gave me a new perspective that it is never equal in marriage—it requires sacrifices on both sides,” said Matherine. “If we’re always seeking equality, it means that we need to ‘keep score’ and that’s not right. Pastor and Jiahui were so relatable, and the workshop was so much fun that when they ended, we were like, ‘Already?!’”
The couple has two children aged 6 and 1. Matherine also attended “Ways To Support Your Child’s Mental Health”, which taught her to be mindful of their mental state even when her kids are young. “I was greatly reminded that we are indeed merely stewards to the children God placed under our care. And therefore, we must always seek to understand what God’s will for our child is instead of imposing our will on them and causing tremendous distress.”
Matherine and Eugene felt blessed by every workshop they attended. “The practical tips, knowledge and the speakers’ personal experiences are so invaluable and helpful,” she said. “The only thing was that we wished the sessions were longer!”
Missed the conference? Here are the finale Q&A sessions with Pastor Kong and Sun.