Yearly Archives: 2015

Speaking into the heart

When designing its training, BUILD keeps this simple mnemonic in mind: ASK, which stands for three domains that need to be addressed in all-round training: attitudes, skills and knowledge (it is not simply a reminder that learning is a gift). The mnemonic puts attitudes first deliberately; skills and knowledge count for nothing if they are not coupled to the right attitudes of the heart.

BUILD’s sixth module of training takes the Psalms as its point of departure and has a special focus on wholehearted leadership. It recognises the struggles that leaders face and the attrition they experience, and teaches approaches to personal renewal. This testimony is therefore particularly heart-warming:

“I thank God for the training we have just completed because it has transformed my life drastically. I came frustrated and heartbroken. I was not sure of what the future would be. I only came because I wanted to complete the course but little did I know that God would speak to my broken heart. I was asking myself many questions, wondering whether there was any point in continuing in ministry. The Book of Psalms in Module Six was a source of inspiration to me and more so Psalm 73, a text we encountered in Unit 7. A realisation of God’s goodness in verses 23-26 gave me hope and now I can move on knowing that God is good. I have been reading the Book of Psalms over the years but in this training I have seen many things that I never saw in the Psalms, and I have loved the book more and more. Now when I preach the Psalms I will preach it more accurately by the grace of God. Once again I thank God for his great love. Thank you for allowing God to speak through the entire teaching staff into my heart.”

This experience was in the context of a block of training in a formal academic course, which functions as a training-of-trainers programme for BUILD. How encouraging to hear of training that brings the heart into the heart of theological education, and which equips leaders to then transform others from the inside out.

Reflection matters. Why is it important and what is BUILD doing about it?

During BUILD’s research phase an informant explained that “the traditional theological method is to give information learners can recall in an exam; when they pass, they go.” They added: “We need approaches that require reflection.” Another observed that “different settings have different problems that are unique and that theological reflection must answer”.

As a result the BUILD curriculum is rooted in the Scriptures and in the situations church leaders in Africa’s Great Lakes Region face. And it teaches models of reflection that learners can then apply to the unique situations they encounter. BUILD believes this reflects Scripture’s own approach, making it more biblical than traditional methods rather than less.

BUILD builds those reflection skills incrementally. Module One provides a foundation in a sequence of learning units that runs as follows: Unit 4 encounters 2 Timothy 1:8-12, in which Paul presents vital aspects of his gospel and his gospel ministry; Unit 5 then explores the nature of that gracious gospel; Unit 6 builds on this and empowers leaders to share the gospel in practice; and Unit 7 goes on to look at 2 Timothy 2:1-7, where Paul encourages Timothy to train others for gospel ministry in the context of very real hardship. That passage ends with this word from Paul to Timothy: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”.

For BUILD that is a natural invitation to then discuss the importance of gospel-guided reflection in the midst of ministry, and Unit 8 considers what that looks like. That initial unit about reflection begins with a simple three-step BUILD method of Christian reflection. A method that begins when learners encounter something in God’s world and God’s word with a desire for wisdom; it continues with reflection on those situations and Scriptures in order to gain wisdom; and it leads to action in God’s world with the wisdom that comes from God’s word. All in the context of dependence on the Lord who gives insight.

In English participants are encouraged to remember the process through the simple mnemonic, ‘era’: encounter, reflection, action. They discuss the fact that an era is a significant period of time; the term of office for a president or the reign of a king for example. They see that because Christ is King, this is his era, and we are called to wrestle with the situations we face in the light of the gospel for his sake, in order that his will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven”. His people are to point to his Kingdom, the new era he is bringing through Christ his King.

As the modules and units of the curriculum unfold the era model is applied in a range of ways. And importantly it gains biblical weight as different examples of encounter, reflection and action are traced: whether through Nehemiah in Module Four, where an aid for basic strategic planning is developed; or in Acts in Module Five as Luke’s thinking about mission is explored; or through Psalm 73 in Module Seven, where the model is given depth to consider the tensions of ministry in times of trouble.

No wonder participants make comments such as these: “The curriculum is centred in the Bible and clearly expounds how the word of God can be coherently taught and related to the day-to-day situation”; “The manual is in context and addresses the real issues of the current challenges for the church leaders from the Biblical point of view”.

Educational or missional? BUILD in Butere, Kenya

In the Church of Uganda, the birthplace of BUILD, the programme operates under the Provincial Education Department and, at a diocesan level, education secretaries are often involved in the programme. But that is not exclusively the case in the Church of Uganda, or elsewhere in the region for that matter.

Ben Kibara leads the work in Butere Diocese in the West of Kenya, as the Executive Secretary for Mission in the Diocese. Jem Hovil asked Ben why he has been implementing and promoting the programme from that platform. Ben gave this reply:

“In 2013 the ACK Diocese of Butere celebrated 100 years since the coming of Christianity. Yet when one looks at the level of Christian maturity in terms of what people believe and practice, it leaves a lot to be desired. The majority of those in leadership, serving as priests, evangelists and lay readers have never had any formal theological training. This deficiency of well-trained gospel ministers has led to very little or no spiritual growth, despite the many years the church has been in existence.

“This situation led to the restructuring of the various departments in the diocese to encourage the church to do what God calls her to do: preparing and equipping the saints for the works of service. Thus, two main things define this core department: first, the proclamation of the gospel through preaching, teaching and evangelism, and, second, the need for a well thought through strategy for discipleship.

“This is where the BUILD curriculum comes in as an important tool, helping us to prepare the saints for the works of service. At the moment, attending the BUILD programme in the diocese, we have thirty-three students who are training as ordinands, thirty-five clergy who are already serving in parishes, and forty lay readers and evangelists. The plan is that this team of around a hundred gospel workers, both lay and ordained, will be thoroughly equipped through spending time around God’s word, one day every week. And as they continue going through the various modules, they will in turn equip other leaders who will in turn equip other leaders and we will eventually have a growing church that is firmly established under God’s word.

“As we read in Ephesians 4:11-13, Christ gave different gifts to different people in the church with one main purpose of equipping “his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. As a mission department, our main role is to train and equip leaders so that they can equip others to serve and build Christ’s church, to his praise and glory.”

This does not mean that BUILD should always and only be positioned in mission departments, education departments, too, serve the mission of the church. It does mean that as an initiative that is both missional and educational, there can be great flexibility over where it is located in the life of the church. BUILD can help to integrate the various aspects of that life, across different areas and departments, where the church as a whole is committed to its God given mission.

BUILD in Luweero Diocese: reaching areas that are hard to reach

Daniel Muwanguzi Mukiibi reports. “Luweero Diocese in the Province of the Church of Uganda was at the epicentre of the liberation war in Uganda. It has many areas that are hard to reach. That is why the Rt. Rev. Eridard Nsubuga, the third bishop of Luweero diocese said this in his charge at his consecration on 17 June 2015:

“I will work to partner with the BUILD programme at the Provincial Secretariat, to train our grassroots Church ministers in order to develop Christ centred ministers in our thirsty local congregations”.

“By way of implementing his charge, the Bishop has formally invited the BUILD ministry to consider training leaders in the diocese for the next three years. Uniquely, beneficiaries will specifically come from those areas that are hard to reach. For example, that will mean including leaders from Kisaalizi in the north of Nakasongola Archdeaconry, bordering Lake Kyoga. Others are expected to come from the pastoral nomadic lands of Ngoma, north-east of Kiwoko Archdeaconry. Please pray that these BUILD workshops bear fruit for the Kingdom, remembering that most of the participants will not have had any formal theological education.

“By the grace of God, these folk are now in charge of large rural congregations. They often trek miles through savannah woodlands to their ministry stations. Their stories of pastoral ministry are dotted with encounters with wild animals; the crossing of cold, wet, soggy swamps; as well as having to share one Bible among many congregants. It is said that lions have occasionally met preachers and killed them. And in some areas buffalo, antelope, monkeys and other animals make life difficult for evangelists and other grassroots Church leaders as they try to settle and grow crops. Sadly, from time to time, crops are destroyed by these creatures. As a result it is difficult to get people from outside the area, hence the need for locally based Biblical training.

“BUILD has been always viewed as the first answer to this need. This training in Luweero diocese may seem like a Macedonian call to BUILD: a call to ground these precious and passionate grassroots leaders biblically. They will be trained in teams of 20 to 25 periodically during the course of the year. The BUILD ministry has over the past seven years empowered a number of leaders in Luweero diocese, who have gone on to impact others. Those who have benefited include Canon James Serugo, Rev. Musajja Tasula as well as the current bishop.

“On the formal side of things, the Ndejje University Council in Luweero Diocese has passed a resolution to start a faculty of Theology and Management. Enthusiastically, the faculty has approached BUILD, seeking permission to use the curriculum. BUILD will particularly encourage those people from the hard to reach areas of northern Luweero diocese to consider enrolling in this formal program. Kindly pray for these local BUILD programmes and other BUILD teams across Uganda to continue witnessing for Christ in their local communities, to the glory of God.”

A trickle-down or an intentional cascade?

Why is training that cascades so important for the health of the Church? This blog has spoken of the “integration of proliferation” in a dense post enriched by its twin – the “proliferation of integration”. Two tongue-twisters for the price of one, which made the post hard to chew and swallow, let alone digest.

This post teases the concepts apart and illustrates an aspect of the first, from a recent visit to the Anglican Diocese of Butere, not far from Obama’s ancestral village in the west of Kenya. The diocese is divided into five archdeaconries and forty-six parishes, with 166 local churches served by forty-five clergy together with over 750 lay readers, church teachers and evangelists. Still another thousand or so other leaders of various sorts serve at the grassroots.

God is building his Church through the local level leaders. They are described as “hard working”, but they were also said to be “willing but not knowing the truth” and are “just passing on what they hear on the radio or see in the videos”. Since being exposed to BUILD one described himself as “convicted that [he] might have been misleading people”. This is a well-resourced diocese with a history of training and revival, an exceptional library and training centre and regular refresher events. It also boasts a high population density, which reduces some of the costs and complications of transport and, in this instance, reflects a land that supports subsistence farming.

Butere Diocese has everything going for it, but the picture is still one of extensive training needs. Models of training that trust a trickle-down rather than plan a cascade mean that only a percentage of the leaders who sit closest to the local communities are reached effectively. Looking back at those figures, the reach could be as low as six-percent (at the level of clergy, lay readers, church teachers and evangelists) or less than three-percent (if we include the other types of leaders at the grassroots).

In the phrase ‘intentional cascade’ the word ‘intentional’ is intentional. BUILD has been made for multiplication: it is incorporated into its philosophy, structures, methods and materials. It is never enough to assume that those who have received formal training will be able to transmit it. That is why the bold and comprehensive approach of the diocese, driven by its Mission Director, Ben Kibara, and supported by its Bishop, Tim Wambunya, is to be welcomed, with a weekly training-of-trainers meeting for all the clergy, and one for the ordinands and other select leaders (together reaching eighty leaders who are being equipped to equip others). We have seen the systematic spread of the programme in a whole diocese as a team has trained-trainers one archdeaconry at a time, but it will be fascinating to see the impact of this more ambitious approach: first on the diocese itself and then on its neighbours, which Butere is already planning to share the work with – in an intentional way.

“Top-down and bottom-up approaches” to fostering the genuine ownership of BUILD

Passing on biblically faithful training to an individual, to a small group of church leaders or even to a conference is a relatively straightforward task, despite all the obstacles. But how do you gain the trust of a large group of churches, a diocese or a province, so that a training programme is owned and embedded and bears fruit for the long-term?

One of the phrases that BUILD’s training-of-trainers uses from time to time, but which does not appear in its materials, is the need in many contexts for sensitisation to be both “top-down and bottom-up”. So it was encouraging to have feedback from a trainee-trainer two weeks ago, one who is in a sensitisation phase with a diocese in the west of Kenya. In his words, but with italics added, he shared this:

“Once I had captured the vision and mission of BUILD in the life of the Church and society, I shared the same with the Diocesan Bishop, together with the Administrative Secretary. Their response was positive and they promised to study the introductory unit of Module One that I issued to them. I used both top-down and bottom-up approaches at this stage. I used the top-down approach while introducing the programme, I then applied bottom-up in selection. This is because I thought of beginning in a smaller way after being given the Light by my superiors.”

It almost reads like Nehemiah’s own narrative, which is so full of prayerful and practical wisdom. Although the trainer himself is ordained, he continued to share how he drew in a local, but more senior clergyman to be his supervisor in the initiative, someone who in effect connects the ‘top-down’ with the ‘bottom-up’. This was not only in order to gain wider local trust but also to give that leader their own sense of pride in the work, ownership that was then evidenced in the fact that this leader, rather than the junior trainee who so wisely submitted to his authority, went on to recommend the training to the local leaders in the area in this way:

“Rev Bernard commended this programme to them as a tool for empowering us to be effective leaders of the church. He encouraged the participants to make wise use of this opportunity that God has given to us for the betterment of our spiritual growth, church strengthening and community transformation.”

It may just be a beginning, but it is a sound one thanks to one individual’s grasp of the need for “top-down and bottom-up approaches” to fostering the genuine ownership of BUILD.

Effective learning through local approaches

How do the BUILD materials work? Occasional blogposts will explore that question. The training materials were created in a series of local curriculum development workshops, as explained elsewhere on this site. Those workshops grew out of earlier interviews and focus group discussions in the Church of Uganda. One observation that a theological educator from the west of Uganda shared illustrates a major theme that emerged:

“Traditional culture is oral rather than literary. Theologically trained people will work mainly among people in the local congregation whose thinking is still tied to oral traditions: so how can one be relevant in that situation? In Bakiga traditional education oral sources are more valued: riddles, proverbs, and stories. When lecturers teach a story it may only come in as a ‘by the way’.”

The culture is changing, particularly in urban areas, but that insight regarding the orality of local cultures and the importance of story has been applied to the curriculum in a range of ways. One example: Module Two is called Genesis and the Pentateuch: Knowing God’s Story and Leading by Faith. The fifteen unit module begins with participants engaging in this exercise: “Can you recall a well-known story in your own local culture? It might be the story of how a group of people such as the Baganda came into being. Or it might be a story about the origins of evil. Share that story with the group.”

That discussion sets in motion a learning process that leads participants through several important areas in the course of the module as they follow that thread. First, the ingredients of a good story are identified, and then are then applied immediately to appreciating and understanding the overall plot of the Bible. Second, those ingredients are reviewed and utilised in a later unit to help learners encounter and interpret individual stories within the Pentateuch. Third, the initial stories that the participants enjoyed sharing invariably include ones that relate to peace-making or other local agreements. Those are then retold in order to illustrate a unit of teaching, ‘God’s covenants and our covenants’. Participants frequently add in other stories or describe how those ceremonies play out in practice. Finally, the theme of stories is used to rehearse learning from the first module, where participants learnt to share their own testimonies. ‘Testimony’ itself is not foreign: it is appreciated in the Church and surrounding churches, with their East African Revival roots, within which testimony is such a powerful motif. And through this process participants helped to see and be encouraged by the way their stories connect with God’s great story, and to learn to lead by faith.

Undergirding all this is the learning environment that this process creates: an environment in which learners at the grassroots are encouraged to value their culture and its learning approaches, rather than putting it all to one side. BUILD trainers are learning to teach and use a story not as a “by the way” but as the way or at least a key way to lay a foundation for biblical learning that builds on what is already in place.

Integrating proliferation and proliferating integration

In isolation, traditional, campus-based forms of theological education cannot cope with the scale of need for leadership training within the local church on the African continent – or in any other context for that matter. Formal models, for all their strengths, are rooted in an arithmetic of addition when the need is to couple them with strategies for multiplication. And those strategies need to enhance and embed training: there needs to not only be an integration of proliferation but also a proliferation of integration.

BUILD certainly does not have all the answers, but it is piloting new models in which formal, non-formal and informal aspects of education and training are deliberately linked together. The new Diploma in Biblical Studies, Practical Theology and Leadership Development (BSPTLD), hosted by Uganda Martyrs Seminary and accredited through the Uganda Christian University network, may have a long title but is a simple concept and a step in that direction. The BSPTLD course selects leaders who not only have some prior theological training, and have therefore benefitted from more “traditional” efforts, but who are also well placed to train others at the grassroots. It then equips them to use the BUILD curriculum to train others. The course is delivered through four residential blocks of a fortnight each over a two-year period, with the main assignments and fieldwork component taking the form of the incremental, guided development of a local training initiative. Trainees are equipped to systematically grow the numbers of local church leaders in their areas, and as they do so they rehearse and own their learning.

Therefore, it was encouraging to receive pictures of trainees training others from the Church of Uganda’s BUILD coordinator, Stephen Kewaza, and one picture had the caption, “Daniel Ntumwa training the local leaders in his Bukyulo church and surrounding churches in Kijjabwemi”. Daniel is a young lay-reader in West Buganda Diocese, which places him rather low down the ecclesiastical food chain in terms of age and recognition. However, this status has advantages when reaching out to those who are needed most in a church facing a leadership crisis with its aging clergy. And Daniel wrote separately to share that he is not only training around 25 leaders near his home, but is also travelling and training further afield to a neighbouring district in Uganda, Rakai. Rakai is not only even more isolated when it comes to access to training and resources, but is rebuilding the communities that took the initial brunt of the HIV and AIDS epidemic; it was infamous for recording the first case of HIV infection in the early 1980s.

Daniel is only one of the group who was trained, however, and others have very different backgrounds and positions – for instance, the Diocesan Secretary of a South-Sudanese diocese, and a Mission Secretary from the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, Stephen reported that David Kiryankusa has started training 30 participants in Makonzi Archdeaconry in Mityana Diocese (an archdeaconry with 12 parishes and 156 churches within it); and another individual has started to equip 26 participants in Masindi-Kitara diocese. Other reports are trickling in from neighbouring countries, with a staggering 180 signing up for training in Butere in Kenya, where two of the fledgling trainers are based.

This blog will share developments, but the initial signs are encouraging as trainers take training into local areas, multiply up the leadership and in doing so develop locally owned approaches to training: integrating proliferation and proliferating integration.

Training spreading from diocese to diocese in Rwanda

BUILD training is spreading steadily and successfully from diocese to diocese in Rwanda. Butare diocese is a neighbour to Shyogwe diocese, where BUILD training was first established. It now has a team of trainers who have been trained locally and who are now training others. While the spread is exciting in and of itself, the way in which it has spread – or, indeed, the way it has not spread – is even more exciting.

Butare has not sent trainees to be trained centrally in Uganda, although that is one way in which such spread is being encouraged. Neither does BUILD Partners provide a large budget for the work: certainly not one that begins to approach the scale of other ‘NGO’ style educational initiatives. Nor have teams from Uganda visited the diocese to train leaders. Teams from Uganda have visited Shyogwe on a number of occasions to establish the work, and they have laboured with their Rwandese brothers and sisters, despite testing conditions at times. Nor have BUILD Partners sent trustees or associates to teach at workshops in the diocese, although that has happened in Shyogwe and elsewhere. In fact, we have had little contact beyond a breakfast with the outstanding and energetic bishop there, Nathan Gasatura, in his home. So how has this happened?

First, it has happened through sharing fellowship. There is genuine partnership between the leaders of the dioceses. Butare and Shyogwe are part of a group of four dioceses in Rwanda, together with Kigeme and Cyangugu. The bishops share very real fellowship and support one another, something that we have witnessed first-hand. Rather than competing, they share resources and encourage one another, which sets a pattern for the dioceses. Their Rural Development Inter-diocesan Services (RDIS) is one example: a genuinely Christian enterprise promoting gospel-centred holistic mission, which helps to drive and promote BUILD as a form of church mobilisation strategy.

Second, it has happened through sharing trainers. Flowing from their mutual understanding, trainers are shared within the network. The flat, missional structure that BUILD seeks to promote is working in practice here, with trainers coming from Shyogwe to Butare to help with the training, and making sacrifices to do so. First, they trained a group of 17 individuals at the diocesan level in August 2014 (ten pastors, six catechists and an evangelist). Then, towards the end of the year, 75 local church leaders were trained at the archdeaconry level, including 12 pastors, 33 catechists and 30 evangelists/lay leaders.

Third, it has happened through sharing resources. As they said in a recent report that I received from Faustin Niyindengera: “At the archdeaconry level, the training sessions were conducted in an extremely interesting and encouraging way” before going on to explain that, “It is important to note that as far as financial resources are concerned, there was a significant financial input at local church level to ensure that the training is successfully conducted. The local churches, in collaboration with the trainees, have contributed to the training participants’ meals, transportation and accommodation for few of them coming from distant parishes. This has not only contributed to the efficiency in terms of resource mobilisation, but also is a way of reinforcing the ownership and sustainability of the programme. It also creates a sense of responsibility and active involvement in the implementation of the programme.”

So what has been the impact of all of this? While the structure of BUILD is designed to promote a range of outcomes, preaching and teaching of the biblical gospel is central and ongoing. It is no surprise, therefore, that RDIS reported this: “We are getting testimonies from the people who were trained and they stipulate that in the local church the preaching of the Word of God is more effectively and adequately done”.

Likewise, Aimable Mutabaruka, the diocesan Mission Coordinator and designated BUILD Officer in Butare, shared: “At the diocesan level, we have started seeing and hearing a change in the way messages are delivered. All the servants of God who have been trained declared that they have been touched and challenged by this Biblical way of interpreting the Bible in the right and true way”. He added that, “those who have been trained are training others and as a result the number of trainees is increasing continuously”. Finally, he affirmed that, “the BUILD Programme trainees are organising themselves to ensure that even those at the grassroots are equipped with knowledge and skills in biblical understanding, interpretation and message delivery.”

Unexpected outcomes of a BUILD training event reinforce its message

This story is one that BUILD has shared elsewhere, but it is of such significance that we want to embed it here in the story of BUILD. It is one that illustrates some unexpected outcomes of a BUILD training event, which reinforced the lessons of the workshop itself and that are entirely in keeping with the fruit that BUILD encourages through its training structures.

Ivan, a seven-year-old Ugandan boy, was a little boy with a big frown. He could hardly walk because his legs had been crooked from birth. In his home area of Nebbi in the north west of Uganda, this also meant he was an outcast. His parents were too ashamed to send him to school where he would have been ridiculed, and the rumours in the community were that his parents were cursed. A local MP told his grandfather, Joshua, a pastor in the Church of Uganda, that he might be able to help. But when Joshua took Ivan to the MP’s office in Kampala there was no sign of the MP and the office told them to go away. So Joshua brought Ivan with him to a pastor training workshop organised by BUILD, which he was on his way to.

Joshua explained the situation to everyone at the workshop and they gathered around and prayed for Ivan and the family. After they prayed, one person there said that he knew of a doctor, a Christian, who had opened an orthopaedic hospital for children. The doctor agreed to see Ivan and said that he hoped the hospital could help. Over the course of time, Stephen, who leads BUILD in the Church of Uganda, and Daniel, who leads a partner organisation, helped organise visits to the hospital for Ivan, partly using funds that came from BUILD Partners to help with the costs. After a series of operations, which were surrounded by much prayer from the Church of Uganda’s own extensive local and online network and great bravery on Ivan’s part his legs are now straight. It looks as though a complete miracle has happened, which of course it has.

Ivan returned to a BUILD workshop a year later with his grandfather so that they could bring a letter of thanks from the parents and share the story with the whole group. Ivan has gone from being a little boy with a frown to one who is constantly smiling and who can now walk and run for the first time. He has now started primary education and the family are no longer ashamed or viewed as under a curse locally – in fact, quite the reverse: many have started attending church in the local area as they are all talking about what God has done for Ivan and the family and how he has lifted the curse and brought such transformation.

BUILD training brings together what many, particularly in the West, have pulled apart: the proclamation of the gospel in both word and deed. Not either/or but both/and, woven together irresistibly to “make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive”, as participants learn in Module One from Titus 2:10. And in doing so it encourages a local, East African, approach to witness rather than undermining it.