2020 Moving Forward with a Perfect VISION

An Interview with Dr. Agnes Ip, Interviewer/Editor Lily Ma

Editor: I can’t believe it’s 2020 already. It is also the beginning of a new decade. Intergenerational ministry has always been Presence’s core ministry. In addition to equipping parents in different ways so that they can raise a healthy next generation, Presence has invested a lot of effort into providing a platform for parents, their adolescent children, and youth pastors and youth ministry leaders to communicate and serve one another, especially in recent years.

In 2015, we started to explore the topic of intergenerational mentoring. After organizing the “Intergenerational Mentorship Conference” in 2016, we compiled valuable content into a “Healthy Dialogue” online training course. In 2017, Presence hosted a 10-week “Parents Prayer Meeting,” bringing together parents and leaders who have a heart for the youth and praying together for the next generation. The prayer guidance and content of this meeting have also been compiled into a brochure that is free to download on the Presence website.
The theme of Presence’s 2019 annual dinner was “Listening to the Hearts of the Next Generation.” Besides promoting the “Presence Life Planning Curriculum,” an integrative training program, we primarily focused on serving the younger generation in our ministry last year. In the beginning of 2019, we hosted our signature Faith Seminar, and later we introduced a blog series about children praying for parents. Highlights from last year included two youth ministry prayer meetings held in April and November. At these gatherings, we invited youth pastors and youth ministry leaders from different churches to share their experiences and struggles related to youth ministry. We value opportunities like these that allow us to share, support, and pray together. Every sharing is inspirational and a good reminder to us. Participants and subjects discussed included:

● Pastor Jason Low, Bread of Life Church — “Keeping Up with the Culture of Today’s Youth”

● Pastor Christopher Spolar, Chinese Bible Missions Church — “Working Hand-in-Hand with Families”

● Pastor Richard Zuniga , Chinese Evangelical Free Church of LA — “Relationships Come First”

● Rev. Clark Choi , Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church — “Helping Youth Fit in at Church (Intergenerational Ministries)”

● Lydia Chan, Grace Chinese Alliance Church — “Limited Resources, Parental Involvement, and Welcoming Collaboration”

How is Presence going to position itself in intergenerational ministry as we enter a new decade? I am so glad that I had the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Agnes Ip, President of Presence, to talk about the direction of Presence in the coming years.

Editor: Dr. Ip, based on your rich experience serving families, what resources and training do you think are needed for Christian families, or families in our community, to properly raise the next generation?

Ip: In recent years, there has been more awareness about sex education and internet addiction, as well as parental education among churches and communities. As families face the challenges of raising the younger generation, they would like to take hold of some techniques that provide a quick fix to issues within their families or to problems challenging their children.

Editor: It is my understanding that Presence has paid attention to and engaged in discussion about these issues early on. It shows that Presence has a strong vision for families and intergenerational ministries. Do you think this is characteristic of Presence’s work?

Ip: Yes, our ministry is visionary. Just like sex education and gender issues, we started exploring these topics and introduced them to churches back in 2006. In 2010, internet addiction was the theme of the first issue of Presence Family Magazine. The declining church attendance of the younger generation was not something new, as we have looked into it for years. However, being visionary sometimes creates its own problems — it’s hard to find partners who share the same vision with whom we can move forward in ministry. It usually takes a while for others to identify with our vision and what we are doing. That said, I am very grateful to those who have partnered with us, supported us, and even broadened our horizons in the process. We are thankful that God has called us into this ministry and gives us sensitivity to the needs of families in this generation.

Editor: What’s your view on the needs of families and pressing intergenerational issues?

Ip: Each year Presence leads over 50 meetings, and more than half of them are related to parenting. Our community parenting education is well-received by families and churches. The feedback we received from participants was that the communication skills training we provide is very practical, down to earth, and very effective at helping people understand their children’s needs during different phases of growth. This is because our training integrates biblical teachings and psychology and takes into consideration the cultural differences of these two generations. We are grateful for the positive feedback. However, we still see lots of parents struggling with practicing these skills and having problems in relationships. After all, given the immensity of issues and challenges in our society, about an hour of discussion on one issue at a time has its limitations in terms of how much learning and change it produces. Our effort is like a drop in the ocean relative to the numerous needs out there.

Editor: How is Presence going to respond to these many needs?

Ip: Parents should know that whatever problems their adolescent children are facing now did not develop in one day. Integrative parenting education should start as early as possible. I am glad to see the recent increase in demand for toddler parenting education. Although the timing of parenting education is important, a change in perspective is equally crucial. Because parents are influenced by the complicated society they are in, burdened by how they were raised, and need to deal with relationships in their family and with their children, a change in perspective is necessary. We see there is a pressing need to provide parents with more basic, core parenting training, coupled with case studies to help them better evaluate their situation. Also, practicing the skills in class will help enhance their learning experience.

Editor: I agree with you. In the word “parenting,” “parent” is the root word. What kind of holistic training does Presence have for parents?

Ip: Over the past two years, we have been developing a “Life Planning Curriculum.” It’s different from career planning, which focuses on career direction and options, and from livelihood planning, which is more focused on daily life and time management. Our curriculum is a holistic training of heart and soul; it examines an individual’s living style, inner emotional world, life value system, and priorities. We hope that through reflection and integration, it can bring growth and transformation to the participants and help them position themselves in a complicated, multicultural society with wisdom in dealing with people. Adult curriculum is for adults in general, but it’s also a value-added curriculum for parents to better equip themselves. We are still in the process of developing training material for instructors. I hope it can be available to churches soon as a shepherding tool to train up believers.

Editor: Besides the “Life Planning Curriculum,” are there any other curricula worth paying attention to?

Ip: Yes, the “Healthy Dialogue” online course. This course helps parents, youth and youth workers understand their responsibilities and roles, and provides a guideline for appropriate boundaries and communication among these three groups. This program has been available online for a while already. In order to make it accessible to more people, the program has been revised. We encourage churches to organize group registration so that the “Healthy Dialogue” training can be a useful tool for intergenerational ministry.

Editor: The year 2020 is definitely a year to further develop intergenerational training. As always, Presence will work hard and faithfully serve churches and communities. We will partner with churches to equip believers and to prevent them from compartmentalizing their faith from the rest of their lives in today’s chaotic, complicated, and multicultural society. Instead, they will be the salt and light of the world and live out the true meaning of their faith. We pray that God will keep giving us vision and wisdom so that we can continue to be sensitive to, and have a vision for how to meet the needs of this generation. May God lead us and guide our focus as we partner with churches and believers to do this intergenerational ministry work.