A feast in famine

The Diocese of Shinyanga in northern Tanzania was formed in 2005 but due to limited resources there have been no capacity-building workshops to date. In reality that training-famine dates back to 1991: Shinyanga was carved out of another diocese, one in the midst of years of conflict and training-paralysis. No wonder that the launch of BUILD training in the diocese has been greeted with such enthusiasm and commitment.

Following on from the TMOT (training of master trainers) reported in last month’s blog the trainers got to work in Shinyanga for a fortnight in late May. The hunger for training meant that they were greeted by not one but two different classes: a day-release one and a block-release group. (Although the ‘day-release’ class, who were keen to get started, had to meet in the evenings because the block-release group were meeting every day.)

Even those two groups represented four different types clustered together: 55 BUILD students from Shinyanga municipality – the day-release group (with 14 clergy and 41 lay leaders); 25 students from rural areas who are being trained through a block-release approach (local clergy and an evangelist); 22 students with English language ability who form a diploma-level block-release group (15 of those are lay leaders); and a larger certificate class of 58 BUILD students, who are learning primarily in Kiswahili (31 pastors and 27 lay leaders). Those 80 students are approx. 60% men and 40% women, but are more evenly matched in terms of whether they are ordained or not (with a slight majority of lay leaders among them).

Getting too close to the detail might mask the main points: first, that all this represents a training revolution; second, that Bishop Johnson Chinyong’ole and his team are thinking courageously about training needs and how they can be met; third, that all this is part of a grand mission plan to not only strengthen existing churches but to plant 500 new ones.

Behind that, +Johnson writes, “As a diocese we have had a time of long longing for BUILD training in Shinyanga diocese. We affirm the vision of BUILD which is, ‘to see a multitude of well-equipped leaders at the grassroots building healthy churches’ across the seven districts in our Diocese of Shinyanga and we affirm the BUILD mission which is, ‘to enable churches to train their own leaders with a practical understanding of the gospel, Scripture and theology.’ It is our plan to use BUILD training programme as our essential training model to every clergy and lay leader.”

In practice that means, first, “All students trained for ordained ministry from colleges after graduation will be enrolled into BUILD training so that they may be equipped practically for biblical studies, practical theology and leadership development.” And, second, “All evangelists / church planters who will be trained at ACT Shinyanga Mission and Evangelism Centre will be also enrolled in BUILD training programme. Finally, “We will encourage and make plan for Youth leaders, Mothers’ Union leaders, Church elders and Sunday school teachers to be enrolled in BUILD training programme.”

Because the needs are acute and the solution has been embraced, the diocese has already made enormous strides in building-in local sustainability, but that will need to be part of another blog-post. But it would be a shame not to end with testimonies from a few participants.

Michael explained, “I followed BUILD guidelines while preaching the Word somewhere and the local pastor told me, ‘you were so good, you went to college again?’ So for me I have found something of great value. Thank you so much BUILD for making me much better. We need more BUILD.”

Joan adds, “BUILD has been very useful to me because it has given me a speed governor: I used to preach from more than five different bible books but now am giving attention to a specific bible passage.”

Finally, Musa shared, “On leadership, the training has helped me a lot to manage the truth regardless of the environment, the opposition and the false teachings that exist. I believe by the end of this training we will have a new Shinyanga with the courage to stand up and tell the truth, plant more churches and Shinyanga will be drawn to Jesus Christ. Thank you very much for this great and profound vision for thinking about the health of the present church.”

The featured picture is of the block release group with the bishop and others before returning to their parishes.