Last post Rachael shared about celebrating Christmas in Beijing. If you missed that post, you can read it here. This week Sandy, one of the leaders of the Embassy, is joining us to share what it is like leading a ministry here in Beijing.
So Sandy, tell us about Embassy! What kind of church is it? What does a typical service look like?
That has always been a hard question to answer because at 70 regular attendees, the Embassy is too big to be a Small Group, and too small, or perhaps too specific, to be a church. The Embassy is a young adult ministry and is part of the City Church congregation of BICF. We meet every Thursday evening to worship with music and a study of Scripture. These meetings allow for a strong community and a home away from home to be formed.
How long have you been attending Embassy? And how long have you been a leader?
I joined the Embassy eleven years ago and the leadership team about two years later, so I have been a leader for about nine years.
Nine years in Beijing is a lifetime! I’m sure your role within the team has changed a lot over time. What do your own specific roles as a leader include?
I joined the leadership team around the same time that I joined the worship team to lead and help with administrative work. So my role on the Embassy leadership team has primarily been overseeing the worship music aspect of the service and the health of our praise and worship team.
My main role has not changed much but I would say it has grown in different shapes and forms under various leadership of the Embassy or depending on the seasons we’ve gone through as a church.
Amazing! What is the most rewarding thing about being a ministry leader? And what has been most challenging to you?
The opportunity to be stretched and grown is perhaps the most rewarding thing about being a ministry leader. Serving as a leader allows you to be in constant touch with a diverse group of people which teaches you many things. It also exposes your weaknesses and offers you opportunities to humble yourself.
The most challenging thing for me has been operating in a multi-cultural and very transient environment. The Embassy is a very diverse community, with a lot of Western influence. Being a Burundian it’s very easy to feel lost or different in many interactions. It is difficult to appreciate the beauty of our diversity while not letting it dictate our ultimate identity. Instead we need to develop a more Christ-centered perspective.
The Embassy is quite transient so we’re also constantly welcoming new people which always keeps things interesting. However, sending people off has been very challenging emotionally.
Some of our readers may wonder why there is a specific need for a young adults’ ministry within the greater church community. What struggles does this demographic have in Beijing?
Young adulthood is a critical season of our lives. This is when many people are without close supervision from parents for the first time. They are also making important decisions about their career, or even about marriage. It’s important to make these decisions while being in the right kind of environment, which for Christians, we believe is a solid community of brothers and sisters that encourage each other through prayer and Scripture.
Many young adults come to Beijing to explore something new and out of their norm. Adapting to a new city can be very difficult and can even affect your spiritual walk. Sometimes because it’s a new environment, the expectations from people around you aren’t the same as at home where you are surrounded by fellow Christians. In these cases, the temptation to neglect those former good habits can be magnified. However, overcoming this temptation usually leads one to become a stronger and more authentic person.
And unfortunately, when many young adults come to Beijing, they struggle to find a solid church community. Like City Church, Embassy is a congregation of people from different backgrounds, denominations, and nationalities. How does that enrich the experience at church for believers?
It enriches the experience in a sense that it exposes you to a variety of perspectives on almost everything from greetings, music, teaching, relationships, and even on how to communicate. It forces people who would otherwise never talk to each other, to be in the same space and do church together despite their differences. A lot of growth happens through this process
On the other hand, how could the mix lend itself to struggles and confusion for believers?
It is a reality that you may have to do life with friends that will challenge some of the truths and beliefs you held dearly for your entire life. And they may not always be wrong. A lot of confusion happens when we take everything we hear to be ultimate truth. Our young adult pastor, Ben, likes to use the expression “take this with a grain of salt” when he teaches on topics that perhaps people may not all agree with. I think this is a very mature way of navigating our differences.
I, myself, have faced some of those struggles while fellowshipping with a diverse community of believers so it is difficult to imagine what it would be like to lead. What challenges do you encounter as a leader of such a diverse congregation?
Finding the right balance between honoring each person’s background while staying focused on what is essential is perhaps the most challenging. We all have our preferences and biases even as leaders. Many times, I have found myself focusing too much on honoring our diversity and slowly neglecting the gospel, or the other way around.
I’m sure leading a ministry requires more time and energy than other ways of serving. How do you find time to serve in such a large way when you have a full-time job?
I make the time but thankfully, I don’t serve on my own. Our leadership team is made of a few others and an even larger number outside of the team support and serve at Embassy in all kinds of ways. I make the time to lead because I receive way more than I give.
Which is true of any type of serving! Finally, how does leading bless you?
I’m blessed by the times of worship we experience every week and I benefit greatly from the teachings we are regularly equipped with. I am blessed by our community. I learn so much from our interactions. Being part of it stretches me and challenges me at the same time.
Well thank you so much for sharing us insight into what it is like leading a ministry. I’m sure it blessed those of us who are not leaders or pastors of a congregation and therefore overlook how they have their own struggles and challenges within serving.
The Embassy is a young adult’s congregation of City Church. We meet every week for worship and a Bible-based message. We also do services centered on small group discussion, testimony, and worship music. Embassy has two services each week:
Tuesday mornings at 10:30 in Room 700
Thursday evenings at 7:15 in Room 800-900
21st Century Hotel (Second Floor)
40 Liangmaqiao Lu
Beijing, China 100016
For more information check out http://theembassy.bicf.org/about.html