On being a Christian and
a student in Singapore
By Priscilla Yang
WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be both a Christian and a student in Singapore today? Do youths find it a challenge to be both? Just take one glance at youth ministries today, and tell me: Can you find at least one person who is uninvolved, tired and withdrawn? Most certainly can.
The education system in Singapore is like a wave of terror. If you don’t swim fast enough, the torrential waves will soon engulf you and pull you even further behind. Competition rages through every school, right from the very beginning when parents fight for limited places in renowned primary schools, up to tertiary education, where even a couple of “A” grades no longer guarantee you a place in a university.
Singaporean parents and youth rate education as having paramount importance and as a result, everything else becomes a secondary commitment. Priorities have been reshuffled, such that other aspects of life, like family and religion, become non-essential. If you have a talent, like playing the violin or dancing ballet, you would have to be outstanding at it in order to be recognised. Anything less would be considered “substandard”, and would result in your being “left behind”.
Many parents believe that shoving every lesson possible down their child’s throat is the way to ensure that their child grows up to achieve all-rounded excellence. After all, kids learn best when they are young. Such is the pressure that children and adolescents endure, just to grasp a sliver of recognition and praise.
Amidst all this, where does Christianity come in? What does it mean to go to church? What does it mean to be a Christian? Many youths grapple with the challenge of being a Christian and student in today’s world. They find it difficult to toggle between participation and leadership in church activities, studies and other school-related work. This is especially so for youth leaders who are actively serving in their youth ministries. Therefore, it is not an uncommon sight to see youth leaders in church burned out every once in a while, or even for a prolonged period of time.
We may obediently sit through a Sunday worship service, but our thoughts are far away – worrying about having to complete an essay due the next day, planning for the next meeting, or running through our weekly schedule in our heads. For some, we may be enjoying a time of “refreshment” by dozing on the pews in the cool breeze of the air-conditioning. We may close our eyes, lift up our hands and sing during worship sessions, but our words are merely a recitation of what is being projected on the screen, and nothing more. All of which, I will admit, I have committed before.
However, when I reflect on these times, it pains me to know that I have dishonoured God. This is especially since our time in church is dedicated to God as we come before Him and seek spiritual refreshment for our bodies and souls. I am not saying that this is what every youth is doing, but only that we fall into the danger of shoving God into our back pockets and leaving Him out of our work and plans.
Where then are these youths going to draw their spiritual and physical refreshment? This is where families and church become part of the picture. What have parents and senior church leaders done to ensure that the rising generation is walking close with the Lord?
Parents play an important role in steering their children towards the right direction in their spiritual journey. Whether youths may choose to deny it or not, they do take after their parents in some way. It is important for the immediate family to be in touch with their own children so that they can understand the situations they face in their lives and make it known to them that their family cares. In times of rejoicing, or in times of despair, we need our families to offer some edifying words, or simply just to be there.
Senior church leaders, too, need to take a step back, and observe if the younger leaders are discipling others in the right manner. If not, give them advice and support, and help them seek God in a close and intimate way.
Also, it is of paramount importance that each youth has a mentor or a sister- or brother-in-Christ to account for their spiritual journey with the Lord. In this way, we can grow together as a body of Christ as well as strengthen the relationships within our natural families and church families, and most importantly, with our Father who loves us so very much.
Priscilla Yang, 19, is a member of Charis Methodist Church and a recent graduate of TRACKERS (the youth discipleship programme organised by the Trinity Annual Conference Board of Youth Ministry).