Grace EFC is by all standards a small family church. On Sunday mornings, there is virtually no traffic around the little corner of USJ1 in Subang Jaya, Selangor, where the church is located. Parking is plentiful for its 40 plus members. It would be difficult to find a more closely knit church as well. The Tew family makes up almost half of the church’s congregation, with four of the six Tew brothers and their families worshiping there.
Today, this little church has come to a very crucial junction in its life. As a family church, it’s a congregation of parents and children, but literally no young adults.
The oldest of the second-generation Tews is 22-year-old Grace. After her, the next oldest church member is more than 10 years her senior. This leaves the leadership of the youths in Grace’s hands, along with her 20-year-old sister Mabel and her 18-year-old brother Jason. But with higher education knocking on their door, the Tew siblings have limited time to prepare the next generation to take over.
“We have a window of about one to two years before we head off to study. We need to build up the next generation of youths, so that they can take over soon,” says Grace.
Already, Grace is seldom around on weekdays. She is currently enrolled as a third-year medical student at the local International Medical University (IMU) and is attached to Tunku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban. Despite that, she still finds time between her busy study schedule to regularly come back on weekends to serve and worship at Grace EFC.
However, when she finishes her studies at the end of 2014, she could be placed at any hospital in the country for her housemanship.
“Right now, we are the ones leading the youths. After me, the next oldest person is around 35 years old, so it is up to us to build up our youths. We have maybe about a dozen youths who attend regularly and sometimes as many as 20. We have begun organising youth meetings on Friday nights with the support of Pastor Benjamin Skadiang,” says Grace.
The wiry pastor has been leading the church for a while now, long before his hair started to turn white.
“As a church, we’ve had to overcome many challenges since we first began. There was a time when we wanted to close down the church due to the shrinking number. But the Lord didn’t allow it. We are facing another challenge today – how to build up the next generation of Grace EFC,” comments Skadiang who believes that the future of the church lies in the hands of the next generation. He gives his full support to the Tew siblings and others that have grown up from the ranks of Sunday School.
“One thing that I am very thankful for are the parents of all these young people, who have released them to actively serve the church. Often times, it is easy for parents to become so focused on their children’s academic performance that the children are unable to serve,” he adds.
The Tew siblings’ service to the church has not hindered their academic performance. In fact, Jason is among the most active members in his college Christian Fellowship.
The Tew siblings have been organising regular gatherings on Friday nights for college and university students. Skadiang attends the meetings to oversee the small group of a dozen. Most of the regular attendees are simply friends of the Tew trio and their cousins.
“We have been reaching out mainly to Christians who haven’t yet found a church, or people who used to go to church. Fortunately, all of us can drive because usually, we have to pick up our friends for the Friday night meetings,” says Jason.
Jason is currently studying AusMat in college and in a year’s time, he will be going overseas to further his studies. This will leave Mabel, who is studying nutrition and dietetics at IMU, to hold the fort with the help of others like their cousin Bernard.
It is tough to attract young adults to this church, admits Jason, noting that there are about 20 other churches in the nearby area, some which can cater better to young adults.
Nevertheless, the young Tews are not discouraged and continue to work on the next generation of leaders from their youths.
Skadiang points out that the Chinese school behind the church, SRJK Chee Wen, presents a fantastic opportunity for ministry that has barely been tapped into.
For the time being, the biggest challenge is still the lack of a new set of leaders to take over once Jason and Grace leave.
“Raising up leaders among the youths can be challenging. Kids nowadays have different priorities. Not everyone is passionate about the church, but we are, so it is our job to get them passionate,” says Jason.
When Grace and Jason leave, their absence won’t just be felt by the youths. They are a regular fixture at the front of the congregation every Sunday, leading worship and playing the musical instruments.
For this little church, worship is a simple but honest affair. There is a piano and guitar, accompanied by a small wooden percussion box. In the cosy single-storey shoplot, a full-sized drum set would have been overwhelming, so the small box fits in nicely.
As worship comes to an end, the younger children are led into the adjoining shoplot where the Nursery class is held. The door closes, cutting off the sound of the little voices in the next room as Skadiang takes the pulpit yet again after so many years. Just another Sunday for Grace EFC.
“I’ve been with this church almost since it was first founded. It has been a long, long journey with many challenges and one day, I will have to step down. Hopefully, by then, we will have a new generation of leaders ready to take over,” he says.