BUILD emerged over a decade ago as an initiative of the Education Department of the Church of Uganda (COU), the world’s second largest Anglican Church.
But its story goes back further still, first to the mid-1990s, when that Church was seeking creative ways of equipping their many church leaders at the grassroots. The multitude of lay-readers, catechists and senior Christians are the de facto pastors of the Church. They are the leaders who are directly responsible for leading, teaching and caring for local churches in parishes that often have ten or more congregations overseen by a single vicar. In the case of the COU with its 35 dioceses this translates into thousands of local congregations. But this situation is typical of churches across the African continent, whatever their denomination: the vocabulary varies from church to church and from place to place, but the challenges remain largely the same.
Why another training course?
In responding to these needs in the COU various curricula were tested. But in the course of this process a group linked to the Education Department of the COU identified the lessons that were being learnt and began to create something tailored to their specific context.
The emphasis was on a flexible form of training that would be thoroughly biblical and theological and practical. As a result the curriculum development process began with a representative group listing Scriptures, local issues and theological themes that they believed were particularly apt in their experience of ministry at the local level in Uganda. Given the size of the need this also meant developing a scalable form of training, with built in potential for multiplication: the training of trainers as its foundation and in-service training as its main form.
What does the training look like?
The creation of a local curriculum to serve the work was central to this research and development process. The basic curriculum outline that resulted contains 150 teaching units that provide over 300 contact hours’ worth of resources, shared within ten modules of training.
Having sketched out an outline and tested some of the initial ideas, a curriculum development group gathered together at Namugongo, the site of the first Ugandan martyrdoms of 1874. The first week long participatory curriculum development workshop was in November 2009 and that evolving group then met together for a week every six months in order to develop a module of training, until a draft of module ten was completed in May 2014.
Each training module takes a book of the Bible, the group of books it is linked to, a theological theme and a leadership issue (overview). For example, the first module has the title ‘2 Timothy and the Pastoral Epistles: Preaching the Gospel and Godly Leadership’. The other modules build on this foundation, systematically moving between the Old and New Testaments in order to provide training that is biblical, theological and practical (to see this sample module go to downloads).
Every BUILD programme is structured carefully to have an impact: the foundation is the formal training of trainers; the focus is the non-formal equipping of grassroots pastors in their own local areas through those trainers; the fruit of the work is then seen informally in improved preaching, teaching, care and outreach. This focus on non-formal training means that it is viable in the Ugandan context and other similar settings (read more about the structure of BUILD).
At first only Ugandans were involved in those participatory curriculum development workshops. But soon South Sudanese, Rwandan, Tanzanian and Kenyans joined in as the word and the work spread.
As the work grew deeper roots became evident, roots connected to the East African Revival that spread in the region from the 1930s to the 1960s and in which the COU played a central role. By the grace of God the Revival movement helped the Church to recover a love for Christ and his word, with fellowships springing up and sharing and singing their testimonies across the region. BUILD reflects these roots and relationships.
BUILD also echoes the deeper roots of the genesis of the COU in the late nineteenth century. The foundations of the Church were laid by indigenous agents who took the lead in spreading the gospel from central Buganda across what is now Uganda and beyond into Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. This was achieved through individuals such as the extraordinary Apolo Kivebulaya, while western missionaries followed along behind as they tried to keep up with the local flames that were spreading.
Those same patterns, links and sense of fellowship have been retraced as BUILD teams have responded to requests and have gone to neighbouring Rwanda, where BUILD is now firmly established, and to Burundi and Tanzania. The COU teams have been training trainers and teaching and learning as new programmes have taken root.
Fresh growth in the Great Lakes and beyond
In November 2014 the central training took on a fresh cohort of trainers in Uganda, on a more formal, accredited footing with a training-of-trainers course in the form of a diploma being taught in four, two-week blocks over two years.
This next cohort of trainers has representatives from the seven countries in the ‘Great Lakes’ region. There are various definitions of the Great Lakes Region of East and Central Africa, but because of the way in which BUILD has developed for the programme this means putting Uganda at the centre and, going clockwise from 12 o’clock to the north, counting in South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and DRC.
Finally, through exposure in South Africa, a small but significant group of trainers is developing there, that has also led to occasional BUILD training further afield in Malawi and even Cameroon.
BUILD is now not only a fully-fledged unit of the COU’s Education Department, led by Stephen Ssenyonjo Kewaza, with training going on across the Church, driven by a local committee, that committee deliberately encourages churches in similar contexts to adapt and adopt its materials and methods, and to develop fresh programmes in their own settings.
BUILD provides excellent in-service training for everyone who is involved, but the nature of the encouragement and equipping depends on the background and experience of the different types of participants, and their roles and responsibilities in the work.
For those without formal theological training BUILD provides basic but empowering biblical and practical training for growing and leading churches, not least in community mission. For those with formal theological education BUILD not only helps participants to apply that learning to ministry and mission, but also to use it to train others in context. And a further impact of the programme is its natural effect on other types of leaders in the church, whether they lead the children and youth or care for other specific groups.
Beyond all the above, BUILD has a proven impact on the local communities in which participating churches serve as BUILD participants not only feel more confident in their regular ministry but also in getting involved in areas such as HIV and AIDS education and care, outreach programmes and efforts at sustainable agriculture and livelihood development.