The Diocese of Hong Kong Island The Diocese of Eastern Kowloon The Diocese of Western Kowloon The Missionary Area of Macau  
  Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui
Home  |  Contact Us  |  Sitemap     中文  

January 2023
Issue No. 312

Pastoral ministry for teenagers the focus of Eastern Kowloon Diocesan Synod

Decreasing numbers of teenage churchgoers is a common sight in recent years, no matter which denomination you are from. Coupled with the ongoing emigration wave, the church has to find ways to understand what are the causes behind such a decrease in attendance, and the possible ways of stemming it. 

The same issue has been discussed earlier during the Hong Kong Island Diocese’s synod member meeting, and is now raised again during the Eastern Kowloon Diocesan Synod. A survey was conducted via questionnaire, and several teenagers were interviewed to contribute to the data presented during the synod.

The 13th Synod of the Eastern Kowloon Diocese was held from 6th to 7th November, 2022, at Holy Trinity Cathedral. As there were no motions proposed, the synod went straight from committee reports to the discussion round. The chair of the diocese’s youth committee, the Revd Billy Ip Tze-Leung led the synod attendees in sharing their views on the situation of pastoral ministry for teenagers in their own parish and the wider diocese. 

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

The Revd Ip noted that due to the recent changes in wider Hong Kong society, pastoral ministry for teenagers has become an urgent topic for different denominations and Christian organisations. Within this year, the focus on teenagers has been seen not only within the meetings of the youth committee within the diocese, but also across the province. It was after such a multifaceted discussion on different levels that the diocesan youth committee moved to conduct a survey. The survey is conducted by questionnaire, with questions for teenagers within the diocese, youth observers of the synod, and all synod members in general. The committee also conducted filmed interviews with several young church members, in order to give more in-depth data points for the questionnaire.

The filmed interviews were shown during the synod discussions. One respondent reflected on one of the questions in the questionnaire, which asks why teenagers are leaving the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, and gave eight answers to be ranked by importance. The answers included how teenagers disagree with the church’s response to social affairs, being busy with school and work, a lack of pastoral ministry, church activities being not attractive enough, and others. The respondent said frankly with a sigh that these eight things are precisely why the teenagers he knew left the Sheng Kung Hui. As to why he is still in the Church, he replied that it is due to his strong relationship with other fellowship members: no matter what happens, they insist on attending worship and services with each other. 

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

One church member recalled how, before this whole pandemic was a thing, their fellowship saw members from different age groups. The pandemic broke that continuity, and what’s left now are the junior secondary or even primary school aged youngsters, and people of his own age are now gone. Another church member noted that due to the decrease in fellowship attendance, the frequency that they met also decreased, and the contact hours they had were forced to go down as well. He ‘regretted’ such a development.

Moving on to things that are worthy of praise, some responded that the lectionary is something that they admire, as one only needs to follow it to have a healthy exposure to God’s word and establish a good habit of faith in life. As to expectations, some church members hope that their parish and diocese could expand their digital efforts in evangelism. Some others pointed out that there is noticeable division between people these days, and they hope that Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui could stand as a good example as a church, reach out to teenagers, and to walk with them come storm and rain. 

The second day of the synod saw the youth committee member Robin John Au reporting the survey results of the questionnaire. The aim of the survey is to collect data on the current situation of youth ministry within various parishes and missionary parishes, to better understand teenagers’ needs within each, and to provide strategic data for future plans on youth ministry. In about 170 replies, over 100 were from the youth, and about 60 were from synod members.

Mentors are not often the first point of contact

The main differences between the youth and synod members include: in the past three months’ fellowship activities, the majority of responding youths replied they participated in them, whereas about a half of synod members replied they did not participate in fellowship meetings with younger church members. The majority of fellowships that sees youth attendance only has a size of 5 to 10 persons, whereas those attended by synod members are 11 to 20 people large.

The questionnaire also found that when teenagers wishes to open up with their feelings, the first choice for a pair of ears is ‘friends outside the church’, with fellowship mentors only ranking second. Yet, most synod members assumed that the youth would first reach out to their fellowship mentors. It seems there is room for reflection here for those who run fellowships. 

Interestingly, both age groups agree when it comes to the question on ‘Which of the following church activities are you interested in?’ Both agree that video game competitions, outdoor trips, and sports events are the top choices. Unexpectedly, tuition and homework assistance do not elicit interest from the youth respondents. The phrase that the youth would most appreciate from the church is ‘add oil’ (i.e. ‘You can do it!’), and the least appreciated phrase being orders such as ‘you must so and so’.

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

Robin Au noted that the youth in fact appreciates many things when it comes to the Sheng Kung Hui, but feels that the Church doesn’t understand them. They still hold high hopes for the Church, but the Church must be willing to listen to and care about them. Au added that this is an opportunity for the Church to change, but the most urgent issue at hand is the rapid loss of both youth church members and their mentors, and that there is room for better training for our youth mentors. 

Another spotlight during the synod

This year’s diocesan synod was conducted with electronic voting as in previous years, but instead of using dedicated voting machines, tablet computers were used instead this year, with each voting item disseminated to the tablets via QR codes. It was an interesting sight whenever synod members held up their tablets to scan the projected QR codes. The smooth running of this year’s voting was all due to the repeated test-runs conducted by the diocesan staff and those computer experts who volunteered from various parishes.

 (© 教聲/ ECHO)

This year’s youth observers’ report did not take the usual format of a verbal reply. Instead, Mrs Chee led the singing of the hymn “幾何人生”, written by Anglicans. Synod members filled in a card in prayer for teenagers.

Bishop Timothy Kwok observed at the end that half of this year’s synod was spent discussing the issue of pastoral ministry for teens, and it showed us how much our youth wishes to be heard and understood. The Bishop said, ‘As seniors, you are not here to give answers, because what the younger ones need is for you to explore this faith with them. Your experience can enrich their lives, and your support, care, and encouragement are the fuel they need to overcome the difficulties in their journey in life and faith.’



<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 312. Please click here>


Previous ArticleNext Article