Christian students were gathering for prayer and Bible study at their places of study. A climate of differing views on the Christian faith emerged. This led to the formation of Varsity Christian Fellowship (VCF) at the former University of Malaya in Singapore in 1952. In 1956, a Christian Fellowship (CF) was started at Nanyang University, the only Chinese language university in Singapore. This was followed by a group at the Teachers’ Training College as well as Singapore Polytechnic. In July 1959, the FES was formed to coordinate and support the growing ministry among students.
The first FES Annual General Meeting was held in 1960. Work among students grew and foundational elements began to emerge. On campus, evangelism and missionary concerns were translated into campus-wide outreach efforts. Staff workers were employed for the first time. In 1969, Christian students began meeting at Ngee Ann Technical College, now called Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
There was tremendous growth in the existing student fellowship groups. The Contact Group (CG) system was initiated by VCF and this eventually led to the adoption of the CG system by other FES-affiliated student groups. The FES Chinese Work Committee was set up in 1970 to coordinate the Chinese-speaking ministry in the various tertiary institutions.
The merger of Nanyang University with the University of Singapore to become the National University of Singapore in 1980 led to the closure of NUCF, and the establishment of Nanyang Technological University Christian Fellowship (NTU CF). The FES Student Centre was set up in 1982 and this expanded the scope of student ministry into areas of counselling, teaching, and training.
Pioneering work began in some of the newer tertiary institutions like the Singapore Institute of Management. With the increase in the number of affiliated student groups, more consolidation was needed. The FES Bible Conference, the annual Inductive Bible Study Training and World Student Prayer Day were initiated. In September 1998, the first Indonesian Students’ Christian Fellowship (ISCF) was formed at NTU.
This was a decade of many changes – in premises, staffing, and ministry initiatives. Yet, this was an opportunity to re-evaluate, re-invent and re-structure the ministry in a way that would be of greater service to the Christian community. The pioneering emphasis of FES continued with God opening the doors for us to work in several private institutions. In 2002, the Indonesian Ministry (IM), known as FES IM, became one of the ministry sections of FES.
In response to the challenges of student work in this new decade, three strategic priorities – pioneering, integration and engagement – were set to guide and move the student ministry forward so that we remain relevant and effective. (See Witness to the Whole Campus for Christ, FES Ministry Report 2010-2016) FES has greater involvement in international student ministry. In 2012, James Cook University Singapore Christian Fellowship became affiliated to FES.