Youth Christmas Outreach 2014
COOS Youth celebrated Christmas in a different way. Or more accurately, we should say, we celebrated in many ways.
Recognizing that every person has been created with unique interests & talents, our ministry decided to create 3 different teams under our Christmas outreach ‘Being A Giver’. The Street Team, the Serve Team, and the Stage Team each contributed something distinct to the outreach, but were united by the common theme of giving.
Why ‘Being A Giver’?
Among Christians and non-Christians alike, Christmas is often known as “the season of giving” – but is there a certain kind of giving God desires? In line with our youth ministry vision, “Being the kind of people God wants us to be”, we spent some weeks pondering the question “What kind of giver does God want us to be?”. Through this ‘Being A Giver’ journey, we as a youth ministry hoped to grow more into being the kind of giver Jesus himself was.
In addition, we also wanted our friends outside of church to join us in this journey. Many of our non-Christian friends are already ‘givers’ in their own ways, and we welcomed them to come and give together with our church community. We believed that our non-Christian friends could catch a glimpse of Christ by actively serving alongside us and being part of what we do as the Church. So, we invited our friends to join us in door-to-door carolling, in performing for our Christmas concert, and in preparing welcome gifts & hospitality. The idea was simple: If you are serving, invite a non-Christian friend to do what you do. Quite a few friends agreed, and gave generously with us!
Read on to find out what each of the 3 teams did, and hear reflections from youths we interviewed:
84 youths // 14, 18 & 19th Dec // 780 rental-flat households across Ghim Moh, Commonwealth, Stirling & Mei Ling
The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) highlights a love that overcomes barriers and compels us to give extravagantly. We were challenged to love in like manner and be uncomfortable for God in reaching out, taking to the streets to bring the Church out of our 130 Margaret Drive walls and into the neighbouring communities.
We pioneered a work in Ghim Moh on 14 December, going door to door to give out calendars for the new year to the residents. The two objectives of this work were to increase awareness of our church in the nearby community, as well as to prepare them for a follow-up visit by the Community Outreach Ministry (COM) in February 2015.
Following that on the 18th and 19th of December, the streets of Commonwealth, Stirling and Mei Ling rang with (hopefully) melodious voices, as the Street Team carolled their hearts out unto God
The repertoire of Christmas songs included Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Joy to the World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas, in English and Mandarin.
Each group also prepared Christmas Bags to bless the households they were visiting. The Christmas Bags consisted of whatever the group wanted to give, and came from the group members’ own pockets. COM also contributed cakes for each household.
Alicia Chew, 17, was a group leader from the Street Team. She says, “I think personally, I’ve given my time (and energy) this outreach. (: I wanted to serve in an area this Christmas and was super interested in carolling! I was super busy (camps + trainings) during that period... But I’ve promised to set aside time to serve people this Christmas so despite having to rush from one place to another, I decided to go for the outreach! During one of the visitations to a lady's house, I asked if I could pray for her and she was very willing to let me. But she only spoke in Chinese and I suddenly panicked abit because I didn't know how to pray in Chinese. Then the lady reminded me, 'it's okay you can pray in English, after all your God can understand any language'. And it hit me how much sometimes when serving people, I bother more on the little details and get so worried about it than really serving from my heart.”
Indeed, we learnt that what God really wants is a Giver who gives from the heart.
Joyce-Lynn Chua, 12, says, “I’ve given my own time as well as my love. Through this outreach, I think I’m a less self-centred person. I’ve learnt to give more to people and give with a cheerful heart.”
Similarly, Stephanie Lee, 18, says, “Being the Christmas season, I've spent quite a fair bit on presents which made it quite tight on my budget to part with a few extra dollars for the street Christmas Bag. But my dad reminded me that it really doesn't matter how much money I spend. What I have is an opportunity to bless someone, so why not just make the full use of this opportunity and give just as God himself gave. He gives lavishly and generously, so why shouldn't I?”
The next team on board were the Servers. 61 of us - COOS youth as well as non-Christian friends - contributed behind the scenes, preparing gifts and food to welcome those who came for our concert on 20th December.
The Serve team made souvenir bookmarks for concert-goers, prepared welcome packs for newcomers, sourced for refreshments, did the decorations, and ushered for the concert, among other things. A member of the Serve team committee, Jacqueline Lee, 19, shared about how the team put a lot of work into planning and re-planning for better food and gifts. "The team decided to strive for excellence when we give stuff to the newcomers; we really wanted to give them the best we could possibly think of. So if I learnt something, it would be 'to be an excellent giver'."
Working within a tight budget and timeline, we faced many challenges in our quest to give the best. For instance, we wanted to put a gospel booklet into each welcome pack, but the bookstore didn’t have enough copies of the one we selected, nor did we have enough budget for a more expensive option. It's here that we experienced God’s grace in miraculous provisions: Without much experience or money, we took a step of faith to write and print our own gospel booklets. God gave inspiration for the content in a short time, and a non-Christian friend generously helped do the layout and design of the booklet in the midst of her exams. And the biggest surprise? The printing company offered us a price far below market rate, and even gave us 50 extra copies for free, after they heard that we were doing this for a church Christmas event. They even went the extra mile to improve our booklet’s design before printing it!
On concert day itself, the Servers arrived in church hours earlier to decorate the place and to prepare for our duties. For many of us, having to usher and befriend newcomers took courage. Server Melody Tay, 18, shared: “Personally, I think I have given up on my internal battle within me of ‘awkwardness’ versus ‘doing my duty to God’. Being part of Serve team brought me to a point whereby my role required me to remove such negative thoughts and to give all that I had in evangelizing, or maybe just saying a simple ‘HIIIIIIIIIIII!!!’.”
Indeed, the Servers learnt that giving required sacrifice. While everyone was in the auditorium watching the concert, many Servers had to miss it because they had to stay outside preparing food for the intermission. Our comfort was in seeing God work even as we sacrificed. Said Geric Sim, 24, "Even though I did not watch the performance (sad face), I enjoyed myself tremendously by being able to serve beside my brother and sister, and knowing that God is indeed at work because this has never happened before in the history of my family (my mum and dad have also stepped up to serve in their church also). So this made it all the important to give Him praise!"
Above all, many Servers learnt to give humbly. Jacqueline shared that giving this way was new and challenging: "Usually I would do the more upfront stuff, like Street or Stage team. But this time I was doing Serve, which needed me to change my perspective about how I can give. Doing all these small small things, it felt like 'does it matter?' But in the end I see that it's the small things that God uses to bless the congregation."
Janelle Loh, 14, aptly sums up the heart of the team: "I have served God and learnt to give instead of wanting to be served."
60+ performers, overseers, and stage crew // 20th Dec "Being A Giver" Concert
Finally, a third group of youth were recruited for the Stage Team! All who were willing to contribute were welcome, even if we did not have any idea what we wanted to perform at first. Usually, some people determine what we can sing and how we should sing it, but this time we took ownership of what happened on stage and during the service, and gave what we chose to!
On top of joining the Street Team, Stephanie also chose to give of her time in the long hours that it took to get her playing and singing right. She was part of The ‘A’-Level Band (TAB) that put together a medley to tell a story of their journey through the ‘A’ Levels. Beginning with “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North, TAB sang of how they were so tired of life in general - studying and going through the motions of school - and how they desperately needed God to pull them through that time. Crying out to God to be nothing but the people he calls them to be, they declared God’s power over themselves and surrendered the outcome of their hard work to God with “It is Well” by Bethel. Stephanie thanks God for “the ability to sing and to testify of His goodness through the songs that we sang” and “for his faithfulness to me through ‘A’ levels. He's been my source of strength and comfort. Though there are times when I feel so tired and dry, he reminds me that I can rest in his presence and that I have the strength to continue through his journey.”
Perfomer Elisa Toh, 14, wanted to share what Christmas meant to her and the importance of love. The song she sang, “Grown Up Christmas List”, was a song that dreams “not for myself/ but for a world in need”. Elisa says, “This outreach has definitely sparked a passion to serve the people around me. It brings me joy, knowing that I can bring others joy just by playing a part. It also encourages me to spread the love of Christ to everyone in my midst. To give is definitely more satisfying than to receive.”
It was no mere show that was put on, for God also changed the hearts of the performers.
Brian Wong, 16, says, “This outreach changed me in the sense that it has made me a giver. Many people think that being a giver is just to give. But really, being a giver is putting your heart and soul into this particular production etc. Giving 110% and to really do it for God.”
Also, Lemuel Lee, 16, shares, “I would say that serving in stage has really opened up a new world for me in COOS. Before serving in the Stage team I was always reluctant to serve in church because I was afraid to. But after this year, I feel more comfortable to sign up for the next event that arises, mainly because of the leaders and participants who were really open and friendly :)”
The Christmas season may be over, but Being A Giver is not a one-time job. It is a way of being!
We celebrate three salvations and one rededication to Jesus Christ at the end of the concert! It is a joy to win souls for Jesus. More than that, it is a joy to be transformed more into the image of God, the ultimate Giver!
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35. Amen!