In light of the changing economy as characterized by the global economic downturn, unbridgeable gaps between the poor and the rich, the lives of many church members have been heavily affected, and the weight of the consequences have spread into the church.
To address and provide an immediate response to this condition, three senior pastors of the most influential churches in Hong Kong urged the church to assess the conditions of the church members and to provide appropriate care.
Rev. Patrick So Wing-chi, senior pastor of EFCC Yan Fook church, Rev. Peter Ho, senior pastor of EFCC Tung Fook Church, and Rev. Leung Wing-sin, senior pastor of Remembrance of Grace Church each shared their experiences and reflections on ministering at a two day seminar on pastoral care held at the Divinity of School at Chung Chi College from Sept. 21-22.
Rev. Leung shared how the church can respond to the member’s work needs or changes, such as adjusting the gathering arrangements to provide for more suitable ministering, for example, when the economy is in a recession and the believers have to work overtime and even travels far distance to pick up extra shifts it often affects their rate of church attendance.
To cater to the members who cannot attend Sunday services because of work, Remembrance of Grace church arranges appropriate service and fellowship time for them. They’ve arranged to hold service even on Saturday mornings.
Many of the church members work in jobs with shift schedules, like parking lot security guards, medical personnel, so they often cannot make it to the services. This was the reason to have a service on Saturday, said Rev. Leung.
At first, the church staffs doubted on their ability to provide sufficient support, but he told them that a service doesn’t necessary need to have a worship team but a simple praise and message will do. Prior to implementing this arrangement, they’ve agreed that if after half a year the number of participants don’t exceed 50 then they will stop; however, the current number of participants have exceeded 160 people and some are brothers and sisters from neighboring churches, which is better than they’ve ever expected.
In addition, churches tend to take special care for the parents with infants. Leung’s church has arrangements for either the Father or Mother of the child to look after the infant and the other can focus on participating in the service, or they would encourage the parents to attend Saturday morning service, so they can get a whole day of rest on Sundays. Leung believes that it is important to consider the church member’s situation, manage flexibly, and help every member to live a life of worship.
He also pointed out that as the economy is changing and faltering several types of church attendants have increased, which includes the early-retired, youths who were laid-off from their jobs, and etc, so the church should sharply help them face the changes in life, such as reduce their pressures, increase their confidence, and help them make use of their spare time, etc.
Leung has personally helped the church members search for employment opportunities and wrote letters of recommendation for their job applications, all of which allowed them to feel the warmth of the church.
With over 10,000 church attendants, Evangelical Free Church of China Yan Fook Church has many members who belong to the “extremely busy” category of professionals. Rev. So said that the church should address the needs of the members’ faith. In economic recessions, many members are working later and later at night, so fellowship can cater to their needs by preparing food to welcome them.
In addressing the type of worship models, Rev. Peter Ho said that ministering according to the age groups is an effective method to be promoted.
As the senior pastor of E.F.C.C. Tung Fook Church that boasts of 4,000 church participants since founding ten years ago, he said that his church now has four generations of people worshipping, and they have a total of 14 services held every weekend.
In each of the worship services catered to different age groups, it has their own distinct worship style. For example, services catered to the youth features up-beat music and dances, while the services catered to older folks include Cantonese worship songs.
Separating the services according to the age groups can allow the church to come closer in meeting the needs of the church members and effectively respond to them, said Ho.
Rev. Leung said that as the population ages and the society emphasize more on meeting the needs of the elders, church senior ministries are often times neglected and treated as the last topic on the agenda. Senior ministries are not worthless, he said, church should devote more resources in this regard; on the other hand, Rev. So said that when ministering the youths it is important to know that more than the fun, the feel, and the food, what they really need is the heavenly father. He exhorted the church ministers to return to the basics of the Bible, using all kinds of wisdom to plant and express the truth of Christ inside the youths’ hearts.
The seminar attracted over a hundred church ministers, coworkers, and lay-leaders.
Reporter Sharon Chan contributed to this report.