How to start 2021 right as a family

by Christine Leow // January 19, 2021, 3:03 pm

Sum family

(Left to right) Rebecca and Mathew Sum are working on modelling the Christian faith to their sons, Joash and Josiah, so that the boys will develop good spiritual habits. Photo courtesy of the Sum family.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Did you plan to save better, eat healthier, exercise more in 2021?

What about beginning the year together as a family? How can we be purposeful and intentional in raising our families in Christ this year?

Families share with Salt&Light how the lessons they learnt from a challenging 2020 will help them run their households better this year.

1. Start as a faith community

On the first day of 2021, the Teys, Caleb and Wen Dee, participated in a cell group retreat as a family. Their sons Joel, 11, and Joshua, 13, were involved as well when they started the year reflecting on their faith and committing their families to God as a cell group.

“It helped to have a bunch of wise counsel to do life together. We prayed and stayed close and supported one another,” said Wen Dee, 40.

That set the tone for the Teys not just as a family but also as part of a community of faith.

2. Model church life

The family believes in modelling involvement in church life and has done so despite the fact that Covid-19 restrictions have meant that both cell group and service have migrated online.

“It’s important to be accountable to a CG who will journey with us,” said Caleb.

The cell group the Teys are in turnefd up in full force at their church retreat in 2019. Photo courtesy of the Tey family.

The cell group the Teys are in turned up in full force at their church retreat in 2019 before Covid hit. Photo courtesy of the Tey family.

Added Wen Dee: “The commitment has been that we keep this habit. That we are all about the same age is helpful because everyone is more understanding.

“We can tolerate noisy kids and we have the same issues about school and jobs. So, when we pray for each other, we can relate to the prayer pointers.”

With church service, the Teys have maintained a routine much like in the days of in-person meetings.

“It’s important to be accountable to a CG who will journey with us.”

“We intentionally make time for church service. We demonstrate how we prepare ourselves to attend online services as if we were at church, instead of just ‘watching’ a service over breakfast or listening to sermons while we shop,” said Wen Dee.

“Habits are caught, not taught. Young as they are, kids are able to pick up our habits and language, and before you know it, they will soon mimic us.”

Mathew Sum, 39, and his wife Rebecca Seow, 38, are parents to two boys Joash aged nine and Josiah aged six. They, too, are making it a point to model commitment to church life by including their children in cell group meetings even though the gatherings remain virtual.

This helps the children continue to feel part of the larger church community and appreciate the importance of gathering together as a church.

“They join us for worship, and when we share and discuss. The children have missed (in-person) church service for almost the whole year. So, we want to be more intentional in including them,” said Sum.

3. Commit to purposeful devotion

The Sums have always had the habit of doing devotions together as a family every evening. But as their sons got older and more engaged in the sessions, they began to ask deeper questions.

Said Sum: “My older son was asking questions like, ‘How do I know that God can hear me when I pray?’ ‘How do I know God cares for me?’ ‘What if I pray about things He doesn’t care about?’

“We were glad that he was questioning because he was trying to figure out his faith. But we just found that the Bible stories (in children’s devotional material) didn’t really cover the scope of what they wanted to talk about.”

The child-friendly Bible Sum bought to start his children on a Bible-reading programme during family devotions in 2021. Photo courtesy of the Sum family.

Sum bought a child-friendly Bible to start his children on a Bible reading programme during family devotions in 2021. Photo courtesy of the Sum family.

So, during the December break last year, Sum took a Sunday afternoon off to scour the shelves of a Christian bookstore in search of materials for children that could engage his sons in the discussion of their faith.

Said Seow of her husband: “He went to look for materials because we felt that, if we couldn’t answer them, they might turn to other places to feed their questions and not us. So, he bought quite a lot of books.”

One of the books they got was a simplified Bible that went beyond re-telling stories to presenting the verses in a child-friendly manner for a one-year reading programme.

“We wanted them to develop the rigour of reading the Bible because eventually, there will not be much cartoons or pictures to see (in adult Bibles),” said Sum.

Added his wife: “This set the direction for our devotion this year because previous material jumped from one topic to another. The Bible also has factual questions that helped us check on their understanding and application questions that drew out the points (in the verses).”

“He was questioning because he was trying to figure out his faith.”

Sum particularly liked the Bible because it “helped us guide our kids to think (about the truth) a bit further.”

He explained: “The Bible made reading (God’s word) both personal and relevant because Joash was starting to ask questions like, ‘What if I sin, will God still listen to me?’ ‘Why is there the Holy Spirit?’”

They also bought a book of questions that children asked called The Answers Book for Kids. There are questions such as: “What language did Adam and Eve speak?” “Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?” “Is it true that the earth was made in six days?”

Though they bought the material to help their older son who has an intellectual bent, the Sums found that they learnt as well.

“We always think, ‘How did God call so many animals into the ark?’ But according to historical records, in the early days, there were not as many species of animals as we had thought. So, how we look at animals may be different,” said Sum.

As they went through the questions, they also related it to life today.

“We related it to Covid-19. We told the boys that Noah was quarantined in the ark as well. (The Bible) became more real and relevant to them,” said Sum.

4. Model the Christian life

The Sums have always made it a point to talk to their children about how they live their lives as Christians. In 2021, they plan to continue this.

“I tell them that, when I go for my jogs, I take the chance to pray and tell God about my work, my troubles.

“By seeing how we involve God in our lives, we want to show them that being a Christian isn’t just about attending church,” said Sum.

Now that their sons are older, the Sums have also started to teach them to pray on their own instead of reading prepared prayers found in books. 

“We get them to quieten down, calm down and think of what they want to say to God. This gives them space to commune with God intentionally,” said Sum.

5. Engage with teachable God moments

The Teys have been using personal life lessons to teach their children about God. One lesson Caleb learnt in his 20s was the ability for God to use a bad situation for good. He saw an opportunity to teach his older son, Joshua, this lesson last year.

The Tey family - Wen Dee, Joshua, Joel and Caleb started 2021 not only as a family, but also as a church family when they spent the first day of the year at a cell group planning retreat. Photo courtesy of the Tey family.

The Tey family – Wen Dee, Joshua, Joel and Caleb – started 2021 not only as a family, but also as a church family, when they spent the first day of the year at a cell group planning retreat. Photo courtesy of the Tey family.

“When SARS happened in 2003, I was a student at NTU. It was my worst year in NTU. But because of SARS, my exams got pushed back and that gave me more time to study which saved me from repeating that year in school.”

Last year, Joshua was taking his PSLE. Covid-19 restrictions actually helped his grades, said Caleb.

He explained: “We got to work from home and I could be there to address some of his gaps (in understanding) and help him with time management which was his problem. I really saw a parallel to what happened to me.”

Salt&Light Family Night: How do I reboot my family in 2021? 

2020 was a tough year for the world, the Church and families.

How will 2021 turn out? How can we take our families through this year armed with the wisdom and faith gained from the year past? How can we be intentional in managing our families this year?

Hosted by Carol Loi and Alex Tee, 2021’s first Zoom episode of Salt&Light Family Night will see two husband-and-wife teams share their experiences:

  • Gary and Joanna Koh
    The Kohs have, between them, over 30 years of experience working with parents and youths, during which time they have become firm advocates of the need for strong families. Gary headed the counselling department of a junior college for more than a decade, while Joanna is the CEO of Focus on the Family Singapore. They have a teenage son.

  • Elvin and Esther Foong
    The Foongs are founders of The Treasure Box SG, a resource centre built on the belief that spiritually healthy and whole families are central to God’s plan to bring His kingdom on earth. They provide tools for families to seek God together and offer children’s programmes to churches. The Foongs have two primary-school going children.

Date: January 26, 2021
Time: 8.30m–10pm
Cost: Free
Register at:

Special Giveaway to kick off Salt&Light Family Night 2021!

We have 10 special giveaways to start your family’s year with God at the centre!

Here’s how to enter: Tune in to Salt&Light Family Night on Jan 26, 8.30-10pm. During the Zoom programme, a special blessing code will be shared by host Carol Loi.

The first 10 viewers who private message us the code on Salt&Light’s Facebook or Instagram will win a 2021 Family Devotional Wall Planner by The Treasure Box Singapore.

This unique planner, designed to create faith at home moments, comes with:

  • Weekly devotional talking points around 1 Corinthians 13:4-8;
  • A sheet of almost 500 emoji stickers.

Register for Salt&Light Family Night now. Pre-registration is required.


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.