‘Renewal in every aspect of every Wesleyan’s discipleship journey’: SGM Conference on 20 May 2023

Are you part of a Small Group in church? Are you a Small Group leader? Do you sometimes feel you need to do more for your Small Group or juggle too much in your Small Group? 

After a three-year pandemic pause, the Wesley Small Group Ministry (SGM) Conference returns this year with the theme “Renewal” and the goal to equip SGM leaders and members across the church with leadership, facilitating, and community-building skills. The conference also encourages members to build authentic spiritual families to edify, help, support, and journey with one another. 

Over three hundred Small Group leaders and members gathered for this one-day event at Concorde Hotel, where they connected with other zone leaders and Small Group members, learnt from the speakers and other church members, and build their Small Group goals around the kingdom vision of Wesley’s SGM.

The women at the SGM Conference this year

Unlike previous years, this year’s SGM conference was open to not just leaders but all small group members. “We made this decision during our planning as we agreed that everyone needs renewal – not just leaders,” said Rev Gladwin Lee, the pastor in charge of SGM at Wesley Methodist Church.

Rev Gladwin Lee, the pastor overseeing Wesley SGM
The men at the SGM Conference this year

“It is our aspiration that we see renewal in every aspect of our Wesleyan’s discipleship journey, be it personal, family, workplace, school, and ministry.” 

Small Groups Should Be A Safe Space

In his opening remarks, Chairperson Roger Chan thanked SGM’s leaders and members for their support of SGM. He also reiterated the importance of prioritising a safe space in small groups so that members will not feel judged and be open to sharing their difficulties and complicated situations in life: 

“Often, ‘I am not okay’ is seen as a weakness for many of us who struggle. We need to create a safe space to be vulnerable. As leaders, we have our own struggles too. Everyone has struggles.”

Roger Chan, Chairperson of Wesley SGM, emphasising the importance of safe space in Small Groups

“Christian brothers and sisters in small groups can also form Discipleship Bands* for further support.”

Zone Leaders and Small Group Leaders, Assistant Leaders, Core Team Members and members all come together at the 2023 SGM conference
An inclusive conference for all: six-year-old Dylan Ang was at the conference with his parents Jonathan and Esther Ang

“I am glad that one does not have to be ‘all put together’ to lead. I am so glad to know that all I need is a heart that is teachable, surrendering myself to God, listening to God’s prompting, and obeying,” said Tan Yen Yen, the assistant leader of the Small Group, New Romans, from Zone 14.

An Opportunity To Recharge, Refresh, Re-learn, and Renew

The day’s programme comprised worship, sharing by the speakers in both the plenary and gender-specific sessions, self-reflection, and breakout sessions. There were also many opportunities for SGM leaders and members alike to recharge, refresh, re-learn, renew, and connect with other church members serving in the same ministry.

Worship team uniting participants in a time of praise and thanksgiving

The event included sharing by Wesley’s SGM Chairperson, Roger, our pastors Rev Raymond Fong, and Rev Gladwin Lee, and two guest speakers from Covenant Evangelical Free Church, Pastor Kirk Tan and Lay Pastor Dr Stacey Tay.

Guest Speakers Pastor Kirk Tan and Lay Pastor Dr Stacey Tay

Pastor Kirk Tan (1st from left) and Lay Pastor Stacey Tay with Wesley’s Pastor-in-Charge Rev Raymond Fong at the Wesley SGM Conference

During the plenary session by Pastor Kirk Tan, he drew the participants’ attention to four blind spots: our make-up as Singaporeans, busyness, idols in our lives, and our pride. Pastor Kirk reminded all that “in the stillness, we will feel nearness” to God, and to always take pauses in our lives and reflect on where our heart is with the Lord and our relationships with Jesus. (Read about the Q&A with the two speakers and summary of Pastor Kirk’s sermon here A Q&A with SGM Conference speakers).

Small Groups Are Discipleship Communities That Journey Together

This year’s induction ceremony comprises two inductees for Zone Leadership and six inductees in Small Group Leadership roles.

The new zone and new leaders for Wesley SGM

Rev Raymond Fong, the Pastor-in-Charge of Wesley Methodist Church, shared his vision and heart for SGM before he invited the new SGM leaders on stage for the induction ceremony. “Small Group forms a discipleship community which journeys together.” 

Said Derrick Ng, Small Group Leader of Bread of Life 4 from Zone 5: “We learned that the role of a small group leader is not to lead the group towards God, but to share and ground them in God’s love. We all have different issues and challenges but are on the same journey. God is personal and intimate and will touch us in ways only we understand. Such is the beauty of God’s love and grace.”

Small Group Leader Esther Tay from the group Catalyst in Zone 9 shared, “My biggest takeaway from the conference is ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ in Proverbs 4:23, as shared by one of the speakers. Intentionally, I must be aware of the diagnosis of one’s heart, and staying in the Christian community is essential to nourish the hungry heart and reassure and comfort the hurting heart. I also must look out for hardened hearts to bring them back to the right path.

Small Groups: all about a spiritual family for prayer, thanksgiving, sharing lives, and sharing of celebrations and struggles on our discipleship journey

The bottom line is that small groups exist within a church to create smaller environments where people can connect at an authentic, vulnerable, and intimate level to build stronger and more lasting relationships within a safe space. “This is why our mission is growing groups that bear lasting fruit. This spiritual fruit is nurtured amongst small groups that encourage spiritual friendship to glorify God,” said Rev Gladwin Lee. 

The significance of small groups within a larger church setting cannot be over emphasised. As Roger, the chairperson of the Small Group Ministry exhorted and encouraged all at the conference in his concluding remarks:

“Let’s keep close to God; keep tight to Small Groups.”

Photos by Johnny Koh

Over 300 attended the 2023 Wesley ‘Renewal’ SGM Conference. Hear what some of them said about the conference!

 “The event was very well organised, and the welcome team was amiable and approachable. For a moment, I thought I was back in Church. A lot of planning had gone into this, and equally important, well executed by an experienced team. The content was good, and the speakers were able to articulate the messages well, which centers on God and encourages self-reflection. The speakers inspire others in their journey with God. They are relatable; we can see their struggles and how they grew in their journey through their love for God. I enjoyed the sharing of small group challenges and strengths. This is, after all, an SGM conference. At the conference,

I reflected on my journey with God, and how much I still need to grow in my spiritual maturity. I’m comforted that I’m not alone and grateful that fellow Christians have supported me without reservations and judgment. I’m encouraged by their patience and gentleness, and I see their love for God through them.”

Derrick Ng, Small Group Leader, Bread of Life 4

 “The message about brother Lawrence, the monastery chef, who drew spiritual joy and peace while doing simple tasks and chores like preparing food and serving dishes, was a great reminder to all SG leaders and members that whatever we do, we can navigate through any Martha-Mary conflicts/hurdles when we put our focus on God.”

Edward Leong, Co-Small Group Leader, Kindled Hearts

 “I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the SGM Conference. My biggest takeaway is ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ in Proverbs 4:23, as shared by one of the speakers. Intentionally, I have to be aware of the diagnosis of one’s heart, and staying in the Christian community is important to nourish the hungry heart and reassure and comfort the hurting heart. I also must look out for hardened hearts to bring them back to the right path. Each small group has its dynamics, like the many characters of the Disney princesses. Some are Snow White with multiple responsibilities, some are Cinderella struggling with relationships, some are Sleeping Beauty waiting for things to change, and some are Ariel, the little mermaid who is trying to be someone else. I have to pray for wisdom and guidance for intentionally serving my group members. I also have to be aware that leadership burnout is real.”

Esther Tay-Choo, Small Group Leader, Catalyst

 “What speaks to me is the three qualities of a leader shared by one of the speakers. A leader should be someone who has a vision from God, who has a team with resonance, and who has a mentor for accountability. The speaker also mentioned the qualities a mentor should possess, such as being prayerful, encouraging, wise, discerning, and speaking the truth in love. I learned that to receive the most out of mentoring; one should be faithful, available, and teachable. The more we receive, the more equipped we will be to lead the team entrusted to us. The speaker also mentioned lessons from disobedience to God’s instruction and quoted Numbers 20: 2-13, where Moses, instead of speaking to the rock, struck the rock to draw water out. He was not allowed into the Promised Land because of this act. We must follow God’s instructions and not react to our emotions.”

Jeremiah Edward, Core Team Member, GIF (Growing in Faith)

“As an introvert, I used to dislike going to church in my early 20s and much less coming together as a small group, but as I got older, I found the importance of growing with a community, walking together in our struggles, and celebrating our victories. The takeaway that resonated with me a lot is that the condition of our hearts is more important than the façade of a church-going Christian. One with a hardened heart can be actively serving and perhaps even taking on leadership roles in Church but can be so far away from God. So, I’ll need to guard my heart and reasons for serving.”

Jonathan Ang who was at the conference together with his wife and 6-year-old son, Small Group member, GIFT (Growing In Faith Together)

“God really used the messages of this conference to minister to my heart. The sharing of real-life testimonies by the speakers struck a chord with me. I need to renovate my heart, and I’m so glad I attended the conference.”

Kok Yew Cheong, Core Team Member, Grace Small Group (within the Living Water family)

“It was nice to meet fellow brothers and sisters in Christ again after a 3-year of hiatus.  The authentic sharing by the two speakers and fellow members at my table warmed my heart.  It was a good time learning together.  I can apply two takeaways from the conference in my small group: Managing a small group will always have ups and downs. Whatever our situations and in different seasons of our lives, we must always look up to the Lord for strength and wisdom to help us manage.  The other lesson I learned is to manage the expectations of our members and our expectations of them. Communication is vital to finding common ground that we all can work towards.

Michael Chiam, Small Group Leader, Treasure in Clay Jars

“My Small group was formed out of MJC (Meeting Jesus Campaign) some years ago when I was the facilitator. At that time, members were in their late 20s. Over the years, there were ups and downs, with members dropping out due to relocation of work, and other personal commitments over the years. However, a miracle happened, and by God’s grace, we joined in the Synchronize Prayer Wednesday during the Covid pandemic in 2020. At the conference, I am reminded we are all here to grow in Christ as we go through life’s journey together, loving God and His people through spiritual disciplines in obeying His Word, trusting Him, and following His calling at the different seasons of life.”

Shirley Yeng, Small Group Leader, GIFT (Growing in Faith together)

“I am glad that one “does not have to be ‘all put together’ to lead. I am so glad to know that all I need is a heart that is teachable, surrendering myself to God, listening to God’s prompting, and obeying.”

Tan Yen Yen, Assistant Group Leader, New Romans

The SGM Conference is an annual Wesley Small Group Ministry (SGM) event. Look out for and join us at the next conference!

About the Discipleship Bands*

All Wesleyans are encouraged to form Discipleship Bands—a tightly knit spiritual friendship of three to four fellow Christians who grow in discipleship to Jesus Christ. This is a practice rooted in our Methodist heritage and is simple for anyone to start: just follow the free resources on this page to learn how you can be a part of a Discipleship Band today.

Join a Small Group Today!

Are you currently in a small group? Do you desire to be part of a smaller spiritual family where you can share and do life with other Christian brothers and sisters? At Wesley, we hope that every member of our church can have someone to journey and grow in discipleship with. If you’re looking for a spiritual community to do life with, find out more about Wesley’s small groups here: Wesley Methodist Church – Join a Small Group (wesleymc.org)

Read related article: A Q&A with SGM Conference speakers

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