Small Group Ministry - a Necessary Ministry in China

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1 (since 1974) PERSPECTIVE Small Group Ministry - a Necessary Ministry in China Otto Lui Associate General Secretary (Development & Training) After working with churches across China for about 17 years, I conclude that it is a necessity to develop small group ministry as soon as possible among them. By small group ministry I am not talking about small group churches, but rather small group ministry within a church. The term small group churches may imply a total change of a church s structure and even its theology of worship; the latter term small group ministry is about fellowship and leadership development styles in a church. One has to recognize that working in China is to live and work in a culture of relationship, guanxi or relationship regulates every aspect of daily life. But this guanxi is a manipulative system to be exploited for personal benefit. In a small group setting where brothers and sisters can have in-depth 1

2 personal sharing about their ideas and concerns, a new kind of guanxi can be learned and entered into, based on the genuine love of Christ. Up to now, most events in the church take the form of a large class lecture. The congregation expects their pastor to preach and to lead all Bible study; the participants must simply sit there and listen. Interactions between the teacher and the taught do not take place (following the traditional Chinese education style ) There is little attempt to discover the feelings and responses of the participants. In training courses this is also true - the teachers may know pretty well what they have taught but there is no guarantee as to what their students have actually learned. The Great Commission of Jesus is about discipleship. Discipleship is not about giving information about Christianity but equipping disciples through in-depth spiritual relationship. Through living and working together, Jesus taught his disciples through life-experience exchange. In the equipping of disciples, small group interaction is much more effective than mass lectures. I am not saying that small group interaction is the only way to make disciples - but it is one effective way which is also biblically based. In our experience, forming small Bible study groups is an easy way to begin. In response to the practical needs of Bible teaching, the congregation is eager to learn how to apply biblical teaching into their daily life. Through establishing Bible study groups, we encourage the participants to tell their own stories and responses to reading the scripture. The leader should not rush to give authentic answers or objective information during discussion. The churches in China in general are used to listen to teaching from one authoritative voice. In the beginning, a free and leisurely discussion in a small group context is very new. After sharing with a congregation the concept of small group ministry, the congregation will often ask for small group leaders training. Training through practice is an effective means in developing small group leaders. Bible study methods, facilitation skills and coaching are the necessary topics to cover in training small group leaders. In fact, these small group leaders are not only just Bible study leaders. In many cases, they will become the backbone of the church as they help the pastor to take care of the spiritual development of the congregation. They are in actuality the pastoral team members. As a matter of fact, bi-vocational ministry will become the mainstream of work in the mission field. As most of the small group leaders are also lay leaders. They work in society and serve in the church at the same time. They are in fact the bivocational ministers in the church. We may hope that equipping these leaders will also help to develop the missionaries of the future. This is the reason I say it is a necessity to develop small group ministry as soon as possible among the churches of China. If your ministry is still working on a mass production model of church, please consider a change to a small group mode! 2

3 A Worthwhile Ministry Seen from the Tearful Eyes of a Teacher Leung Qing Quan What kind of work would cause a most experienced teacher to say it s all very worthwhile!, with tears welling up in her eyes? What is the ministry that has attracted this teacher who has retired early, giving up a life of leisure to fly to remote places on the mainland four times a year, there climbing long flights of stairs every day and devoting herself totally to an intensive training program for her students? How come this ministry has also drawn her husband to accompany her in her trips and give her all kinds of support and care? Teacher Chung is a partner of CCL who has given herself to serve the mainland churches as a teacher. Why does Teacher Chung use this phrase it s all very worthwhile! to describe her service training Sunday school teachers on the mainland? Let s hear what she has to share. Teacher Chung identifies with CCL s philosophy of training the trainers. CCL and its partner teachers train leaders among believers on the mainland to prepare them to be Sunday school teachers with a solid biblical knowledge and high life values. These trainees will in turn train young believers. Teacher Chung believes as we do that this kind of ministry approach is the most effective one with a great impact. Upon her early retirement, she hopes to devote herself to the training Sunday school teachers to meet the vast pastoral needs of the mainland churches. Sister Chung also believes that the crucial time for this has now come. After many churches have sprung up after the Cultural Revolution, mainland believers have had a great desire to establish Sunday schools. These used to be taught by believers who were relatively older. However recently, Sister Chung has seen younger believers willing to join the rank of Sunday school teachers. In one training program, 70 young believers left their work and families behind for three days of intensive training, with some of them coming from far away. This might well have been the only chance for our sister to meet with these young believers; indeed they proved to be grabbing every chance to learn. In face of the great enthusiasm of these students Sister Chung recalled, During those three days, I ate little and talked much. This was alright as I could make up for lack of food on my return to Hong Kong! During those three days, some course participants did not even change their clothes, with no thought about how others saw them. Given their financial difficulties, paying for their journeys to the training venue was more important than getting a new shirt or a new dress. They cherished this valuable opportunity to be equipped! 3

4 Our sister also holds the conviction that these young people need life mentors. Although the course lasted only three days, it was vital the content was not simply confined to biblical knowledge. Building the life of these young people was a crucial matter. The participants appreciated this mentoring teaching approach, and gladly shared with her their questions as to personal character, life attitudes and marriage problems, etc. Our sister in fact taught the course together with her husband, and in this way the couple served as life mentors for other couples. Our sister shared in a gentle tone: I feel calm and steady when my husband is around. I can then immerse myself totally in the training work, leaving everything else to be taken care of by my husband. Isn t this a good example of how a couple should serve with one mind and one heart? Students were taught a good lesson on marriage through the service of our sister and her husband. Finally, Teacher Chung also humbly said that through the sharing of the students she had also come to a good grasp of the unique needs of the churches and pastors in various regions. This would enable her to assist them and to pray for them appropriately. During the training period, she was invited by some local churches to share her testimony and offer advice on church management. This had linked her up with local churches and broadened her understanding of the needs of mainland believers and of the training needs of the churches. Though the travel is most tiring, our sister expressed her willingness to travel to many more places for this important work of Sunday school teacher training. Editor s note: In the few hours chat with Teacher Chung, we noticed that tears would well up in her eyes every time she said it s all very worthwhile. The editor was impressed by her deep concern for the training needs of Sunday school teachers on the mainland, and admires her for her long-term commitment to the ministry. Teacher Chung hopes that she can continue with this very worthwhile training ministry in the next ten years, and then subsequently to be able to spend the next ten years visiting each and every one of her students. In this way she can see how they serve and give them encouragement. Do you have a passion to take part in helping the Sunday school teachers in China? 1. Are you willing to pray for the training of Sunday school teachers on the mainland? You can subscribe to the Pray For China monthly newsletter. 2. Are you willing to make offerings to support the training of Sunday school teachers on the mainland so that this worthwhile training ministry can benefit more mainland Christian leaders? If you answer yes to any of the above, please contact us by at We look forward to working hand-in-hand with you. Thank you! 4

5 Editorial office Buying peace fruits pray for the opening up of mainlanders hearts Taking up extra work pray for the self-survival of church workers Many mainlanders now know more about Christianity and are at least no longer ignorant of Christmas. They celebrate the festive occasion even as they don t know its meaning. Some fruit shop owners sold peace fruits (just ordinary apples) on December 24 wrapped in gift papers and tied with ribbons at a cost of rmb15 each. These fruits sold very well! It seems more and more people are willing to spend on festival items although not many understand the true meaning of Christmas. (sharing by a church worker in the North) More urban residents who are richer now need not worry about making ends meet and are looking for an improved quality of living, and more physical, sensual enjoyments. May the Lord open up their hearts so they are willing to look for spiritual satisfaction. May the Lord awaken more souls, prompt more to look for the true meaning of life, come to know and trust in Him, the creator of universe. The elderly looking after children pray for children left behind in villages Lately cases broke out on the mainland in which children left alone in villages were killed - some drowned in groups; some were burned to death. An alarm bell has been rung over the safety of children cared for by their grandparents rather than their parents! Adult workers who fled many villages in search of work in the cities left behind two vulnerable groups: children and the elderly. It is far from safe to leave children in the hands of old people. Because of the household registration system, migrant workers cannot fully integrate into the city they work in and have no choice but to leave their children behind in their home villages. (combined reports) Caring for children left behind in villages is an issue in urgent need of attention. When tackled properly, it can prevent a range of social problems. May the Lord have mercy on the numerous migrant workers and protect the rights of their children. May the Lord provide for a system and measures that can foster social harmony. Believers generally follow the church teaching of tithing, yet some deep-rooted concepts are hard to change. For example, believers think that offerings should only be used on ministries, not church workers. Last year, pastors and church workers could not get reimbursements for what they had spent on Christmas activities. Because of financial constraint, the workers have to do extra jobs, despite their heavy workload at church, to support themselves and their family. (sharing by a church worker in the North) It is common for pastors and church workers to take up additional jobs to support their living. They have no alternative. Let us pray that they can have good health and cope with the heavy workload; may the Lord renew believers concept of offerings so they are willing to abide by the biblical teaching of paying due wages to workers. Only 50 per cent of water supply meets safety standard pray for mainlanders health Consumption of unsafe water is common on the mainland as reports suggest that up to 50 per cent of the water supply there fails to meet safety standards. It has been confirmed that water sources have been contaminated, due to environmental degradation. The government at city and county levels has the money and technology to improve water supply systems but never enforced improvement works. A stringent monitoring system is needed to ensure water safety. (News from Xinhua Net on May 10) Please pray for the improvement of water quality on the mainland. Consuming contaminated water can lead to fatal consequences. Let s hope that the authorities can tackle the problem of water quality seriously with no further delay, putting people s health at the top of priority.

6 Editorial office Pray for Urban Evangelism It is very difficult to do evangelical work in the cities, more difficult than before! Even some brothers and sisters do overtime time at their office on Sundays for money, rather than bringing friends to the church. Pastors can only care for these brothers and sisters by paying them home visits or calling them up. But he cannot stay long as the brothers and sisters are usually tired after a day s work. When we distribute evangelical leaflets to passers-by in outreach work, people collect them from us but put them in the pile of other promotional leaflets. It is difficult to evangelize when people s hearts are elsewhere. (sharing by a worker in the North) In today s information age, people s hearts are gripped by material possessions and the quest for enjoyment, creating serious obstacles to evangelism. May the Lord help mainland urban churches come up with appropriate evangelical plan and spread the Gospel far and wide through His power. May the Lord use Christians, including businessmen and social workers, to bear witness for Him at the workplace and pave the way for future ministries. Urgent need for marriage counseling training for pastoral workers Church members are not immune from problematic marriages. A worker at my church is in such strained relationship with her husband who does not sleep at home at night. But she rejects the idea that her husband is having an extra-marital affair and is not prepared to file for divorce. Other Christian couples are stuck in broken relationships are not divorced either. I know about this and yet lacking training in family and marriage counseling, I do not know how to impart biblical teachings to co-workers and fellow believers. I really need help. (sharing by a church worker in the North) More and more pastors are aware of the importance of marriage counseling and yet lacking reference materials and training, they can only wait on the sidelines anxiously. May the Lord raise up equipped church members to train up pastors. May He also provide suitable books to help pastors equip themselves. Pray For China is published by Christian Communications Limited 19/F, King Palace Plaza, 52A Sha Tsui Road, Tsuen Wan, New Territories, Hong Kong Tel: (852) Fax: (852) Copyright 2012 Christian Communications Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without prior written permission of the publisher. For more information, please contact your nearest CCL Office: 19/F, King Palace Plaza, 52A Sha 22 Sung Chiang Road, 8-3 th Floor, Tsui Road, Tsuen Wan, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C. New Territories, Hong Kong 9600 Bellaire Blvd., Suite 111, Houston, TX U.S.A. Unit 15, 155 East Beaver Creek Road, Richmond Hill, Ontario, L4B 2N1, Canada. 8 Burn Road #09-15 Trivex, Singapore Letter Box 2, Unit 201, 2/F, Wisma Methodist, Lorong Hang Jebat, Kuala Lumpur, West Malaysia : To subscribe, please us at :http://twitter.com/prayforchinaccl Updated insider's perspective on the development of the churches in China

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