BUILD emerged over a decade ago as an initiative of the Education Directorate of the Church of Uganda (COU), one of the world’s largest Anglican Churches. But its story goes back much further.
In the mid-1990s the COU was seeking creative ways to equip their many church leaders at the grassroots: the multitude of lay-readers, catechists and senior Christians who are the de facto pastors of the Church. These leaders are responsible for leading, teaching and caring for local churches within parishes in which a single vicar may oversee ten or more congregations. In the case of the COU and its 37 dioceses that translates into thousands of local congregations that need leadership.
Why another training course?
In responding to these needs various approaches from different organisations were field-tested. A group linked to the COU’s Education Directorate recognised both the strengths and the significant weaknesses in each system, and began to design something for their own context.
The process began with a group from across Uganda listing Scriptures, themes and issues that were relevant to their experience of ministry there. The emphasis was on creating a flexible form of training that would be thoroughly biblical, theological, practical and local. Given the extent of the training needs this also meant developing scalable training, with built in multiplication: training-of-trainers as a foundation and in-service learning as its form.
What does the training look like?
Having made an outline and tested some of the ideas, a curriculum development group gathered together at Uganda Martyrs Seminary, Namugongo (the site of the martyrdoms of 1874).
The vision was to create ten training modules, containing a total of 150 learning units, with over 300 contact hours of resources. In 2009 the first participatory curriculum development workshop was held and the evolving group then met together for a week every six-months, with the aim of developing a draft training module at each workshop.
Each module takes a book of the Bible, the group of books it is linked to, a theological theme and a leadership issue (overview here). 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 that foundation and move systematically between the Old and New Testaments, dealing with related theological themes and leadership issues as they go (sample here).
Every BUILD programme is structured to have an impact: its foundation is the formal training of trainers, its focus the group based, non-formal equipping of leaders in local areas, its fruit is then seen informally in improved preaching, teaching, care and outreach. This non-formal focus means that it is viable in the Ugandan context and similar settings (read more about the structure here).
BUILD is now a fully-fledged unit of the COU’s Education Directorate with training going on across the Church as well as further afield (see below).
BUILD provides excellent training for everyone involved, but the impact depends on the participants’ background, and their roles in the work.
For those without theological education BUILD provides basic and empowering training for growing and leading churches. For those with formal training BUILD helps participants apply that prior learning, and to use it to train others. A further impact is the effect on other leaders in the church, whether they lead the children and youth, or care for other groups.
BUILD also has a proven impact on local communities: participants not only feel more confident in their own ministry but also in their involvement in areas such as HIV and AIDS education, outreach programmes and efforts at sustainable agriculture and livelihood development.
An engine for BUILD in the region
In 2014 the central training received new impetus when the formal training-of-trainers took the form of an accredited diploma. This set a pattern and created an engine for BUILD in the region.
The diploma is taught through four residential blocks over a two-year period in which trainee-trainers are exposed to the BUILD modules and taught how to use them. In between the blocks students implement their learning through the incremental development of their own local training initiatives – multiplication is therefore embedded in the diploma requirements.
The first cohort of trainers was typical, with representatives from six countries in the Great Lakes region: Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and DRC. This model continues in Uganda and has been replicated in Kenya.
While the roots of BUILD go back, first, to the mid-2000s and, second, to the mid-1990s, it also has much deeper roots and wider spread, as described here.