“My wife, Madeleine, and I are getting along in years,” said Ian Chng, a veteran overseas missionary and now, a Zone Leader serving in the Small Group Ministry (SGM) of Wesley Methodist Church. “Our ministry runway might be short, and we want to do what we can to help build up leaders to lead our Small Groups.”
Ian and Madeleine Chng, both in their early 70’s, have been serving with Wesley SGM since 2017. Prior to that, they served in Singapore Bible College (SBC) before they were sent out as overseas missionaries based in Hong Kong serving East Asia from 2010 to 2014. They were then based in Singapore till their retirement in 2018.
The Chngs are a distinguished-looking couple. Madeleine is warm and personable, while Ian is articulate and humorous. Together, the Chngs have a vigorous attitude to life. Conversations with them revealed their deep sense of reverence and thanksgiving for how God has worked in their lives.
Undoubtedly, their personalities seem well suited for the Small Group Ministry.
With their zeal for the Lord, wide exposure and experiences in both the local and overseas missions fields, the young-at-heart Chngs have served in many ministries within Wesley. But SGM is the ministry that they have felt led to serve in for the past five years.
Serving as a Small Group Zone Leader
With Madeleine as his support and co-labourer in SGM, together with three other core team members, Ian is currently overseeing 22 Small Groups (SG) that have a total of about 150 members.
As a Small Group Zone Leader, Ian’s main responsibility is to support the Small Group Leaders (SGL).
Apart from attending SGM workshops, conferences and meetings, Ian and Madeleine also take the time to visit SGs, have conversations with the SGLs, disseminate and clarify information that comes from church, suggest resources, and bounce ideas off with the leaders to find ways to further edify the members. Ian also organises quarterly prayer meetings for the leaders in his zone.
Said Jason Cheng from the GenesIX SG in Zone 9: “I first met Ian and Madeleine in late November 2021. They come across as friendly and authentic and they clearly possess a wealth of experience. The subsequent meet-up at his place was fun and enlightening, with stories on how they have to be ‘shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves’ during their time in the missions field. I always look forward to tapping on their wisdom to lead my SG better.”
Life Before and After Christ
“We just enjoyed life,” quipped Ian, when queried about their lives before they came to know the Lord.
Ian and Madeleine met in Australia in the 1970s, when both were studying there as accountancy undergraduates.
Upon their graduation and marriage, Ian worked in banking and commercial firms while Madeleine worked in various multi-national corporations and in a top insurance firm here.
It was through her colleagues at her firm that Madeleine got to know the Lord. “We used to have Christian Fellowship at the company together with my colleagues,” said Madeleine. “After I accepted Christ, my friend brought me to Wesley because our office, at Cathay on Handy Road, was nearby. Wanting to commit myself fully to being a child of God, I decided to be baptised in the early 1990s.”
In the meantime, Ian had followed Madeleine to Wesley. “The sermons spoke to me. I love music and most of all, the hymns we sang touched me.”
A few years after Madeleine was baptised, Ian also decided to follow Jesus and was baptised. They became very active in church ministries.
The Chngs attended a Bible study group led by Dr Isaiah and his wife (missionaries from India) on weekday mornings at 7.30am in Wesley for about 10 years, from 1990s to early 2000s. “It solidified our knowledge and understanding of the Word, and it grounded us in our personal lives,” said Ian.
“Gradually, our lifestyles started to change. We were no longer just looking to enjoy ourselves,” said Madeleine. “We started to think about how to live intentionally as followers of Jesus, and to plant the seed in other people’s lives.”
Committing themselves Fully to God
After a trip to Israel together with some fellow Wesleyans in the mid 1990s, Ian started to be more committed in ministries such as Family Life, Witness & Evangelism and Missions, at church. He was involved in leading worship in the Sanctuary and preached at the Filipino services. They followed their Bible teachers Dr and Mrs Isaiah on missions trips to Bangalore, India and Kathmandu, Nepal. Ian remembers going on an exploratory trip to Nong Bua Lam Phu with Wesley before the church was planted in Isaan. They recalled fondly the member care trips to Morocco and East Asia to visit Wesley’s long-term missionaries.
Against this background, it was natural that Ian and Madeleine started considering committing their time fully to God. “God spoke to me loud and clear through the hymns, You are the seed and Here I am, Lord,” says Ian. There was no turning back.
Rev Melvin Huang encouraged them to equip themselves for their foray into full-time ministry work after they both answered the call to full-time service after an evening Bible seminar conducted by the then Bishop Dr Robert Solomon. Bishop Solomon was preaching from Isaiah 6 and both their hearts were moved.
In 2004, the Chngs gave up their full-time careers and enrolled in SBC for a two-year course in Inter-Cultural Studies.
(Listen to the hymn ‘Here I am, Lord’ that inspired Ian here: https://youtu.be/Z4ATBaI7ycY)
After their graduation in 2006, they felt called to return to SBC to spearhead the Development department and were involved in fundraising for a new hostel, and setting up scholarship funds, legacy fund and endowment fund, besides building church relations. The Chngs could clearly see the gracious hand of God in their ministry.
During their stint in SBC, God also brought along some faculty members and fellow colleagues who became good friends till this day. In 2010, the Chngs answered the call as overseas missionaries based in Hong Kong for East Asia.
After completing their five-year posting, Ian and Madeleine came back to Singapore and served as local missioners from 2015 to 2018, when they retired from full-time ministry.
What Made Ian Agree to Lead Zone 9
Last year, Ian answered the call to step up as Zone 9 Leader: “I was hesitating and needed more confirmation from God. The day after Kayyona Lim, the then Zone 9 Leader, asked me to step up, I met someone who told me she was an Assistant Zone Leader in another zone. I asked the Lord if this was a sign from Him. Then, a few days later, I met the same lady again who excitedly called out to me as I could not recognise her because of the face mask. I took it as a confirmation from the Lord.”
There is synergy in their experiences as missionaries and leading SGLs. They have worked in multi-cultural teams with colleagues of varied personalities. “We have to navigate with different lenses in order to connect with our SGLs as everyone has different leadership styles. We pray that the Lord will be our help and guide in this ever-changing time.”
“The Lord moulded us along the journey of life. We have learnt to be much more tolerant and accepting of people. We learnt to adapt and be flexible and yet do not forget to point people to God,” said Madeleine.
It also helped that both Chngs identified hospitality as one of their strong spiritual gifts.
Being a leader of Maker’s Clay SG, Ian understands first-hand the issues some SGLs might face. “Some problems are easier than others to resolve. A few common challenges have cropped up during the pandemic, like a dip in attendance and less connection between members due to work challenges, family and other issues. I encouraged the leaders not to lose heart but continue to hold the groups together and persevere in shepherding their sheep. We are all chosen, loved and accepted by God.”
What Leading Small Group Ministry Means to the Chngs
“It is all about supporting our SGLs to thrive in their ministry and not just doing ministry. It is important for us to build relationships and trust with them. We should ‘decrease’ and allow the younger leaders to ‘increase’, finding significance in their service to God,” said Ian.
Ian described church as being made up of small groups and communities of people gathering within a wider body of Christ: “A church like Wesley needs Small Groups. Small Group Ministry is all about loving people, providing mutual support and helping people be transformed into Christlikeness.”
Apart from serving in SGM, Madeleine is also part of the Blessings Craft sub-ministry and the Dawnbreakers choir at 7.30am on Sundays: “I am blessed that the Lord has given me these opportunities to serve.”
Advice for Small Group Leaders
After all these years of being servant leaders themselves, what would be the top three pieces of advice that Ian has for a SGL?
“Build relationships and build trust.”
“Pray for your groups, be a servant leader, and make faithful disciples.”
“And after 71 years of tears and joys in our lives, we have one takeaway — to trust God regardless of our circumstances. He knows all the struggles we have as individuals, as SGLs, and as frail human beings. Someone once said, If God can count the number of hairs on your head, He can count the number of tears in your eyes.”
Great advice indeed — not just for Small Group Leaders but for all disciples of God.
About the Small Group Ministry of Wesley Methodist Church
The Small Group Ministry (SGM) of Wesley Methodist Church currently has 263 Small Groups, with a total of about 2,600 members, under 16 zones.
Zone 9 comprises the following small groups : 11.30am Usher Ministry, Catalyst, Cornerstone, Diakonia, D’Upper Room, Disciples of Christ (D.I.S.C), GenesIX, God Leads Our Way (G.L.O.W.), Haig View, Jacob’s Well, John 15:7, Kados, Kindled Hearts, Maker’s Clay, Our Mighty God (OMG), Pray & Share Together Always (P.A.S.T.A), Providence, Rollin’ With Gog, The Bible Connection (TBC), Toa Payoh, Zaw-Kar, Faith and Heart.
(Please note that the zones are not allocated by proximity or postal districts).