Gaining approval, maintaining integrity

BUILD’s training-of-trainers programme has been approved as a diploma in Bible, Theology & Leadership by a local Kenyan university. With that good news we consider how the course has maintained the integrity of the BUILD approach, while working as an innovative academic programme.

The approval has come from the Great Lakes University of Kisumu and its constituent theological school, Bishop Okullo College, but is being delivered through AICMAR (the African Institute of Contemporary Mission and Research). This provides a robust local base for a course that serves the western region of Kenya. The breakthrough is significant not only for BUILD but also for AICMAR, as it seeks to develop as an institution.

For many readers that will be more than enough information. Read no further. But if you are interested in how the course has been structured, read on. It has become clear that for BUILD to take root, its training-of-trainers must be characterised by at least three things. First, it must maintain the integrity and sequencing of the BUILD curriculum, so that trainers become familiar with it and experience its impact. Second, the course needs to be academically rigorous for the qualification to have value. Third, it has to include elements that deliberately equip students to equip others: while pitched at a diploma level, it functions more along the lines of a postgraduate teaching qualification. That feature means it can function as a bolt-on, so that individuals with prior theological study can build on and utilise it to train others in a systematic and contextually appropriate way (something that is often absent from traditional courses).

How does the diploma achieve this? The BUILD modules are taught over the course of four residential blocks, spread over a two-year period. Each of the ten modules creates the lion’s share of the face-to-face time for one of the residential weeks (which are grouped into three-week blocks). But rather than the programme being structured around the ten modules of the BUILD curriculum, it is made up of 24 short courses, 18 of which draw directly on the BUILD modules.

Rather than disaggregating the learning units of the BUILD curriculum, the course recognises that, from a theological perspective, the modules have three types of learning unit: biblical studies, practical theology and leadership development. The extensive biblical studies material in each modules, coupled with additional reading, learning and assessment, creates a single course. That creates a total of ten biblical studies courses. For example the first of these is Second Timothy and the Pastoral Epistles, drawing on the biblical focus of Module One, and the final course is on Revelation and Apocalyptic.

To create four practical theology courses, those elements of a module are grouped together with related material from neighbouring modules. The first builds on material in the first two modules, creating the course Scripture, Gospel and Theology (God, History and Eschatology being the final practical theology course). Where three modules are taught in a block, rather than just two, the theological elements of those modules are drawn together in a course worth more credit units. Similarly, the leadership development components in the BUILD curriculum are used to produce the four leadership courses, the first being Biblical Foundations of Leadership and the last Advocacy, Spirituality and Leadership.

Astute readers will have noticed that if each residential block is three-weeks in length, leading to twelve weeks’ of residential time, two of those weeks do not draw directly on any of the BUILD modules. The first and last blocks therefore each have an additional week for other requirements. This also means that the first and last blocks teach and draw on two rather than three BUILD modules (hence the different weighting of the practical theology and leadership development courses associated with those particular blocks).

This still leaves six courses unaccounted for, four of which are ‘applied papers.’ Central to these is the Leadership Development Fieldwork course, which embeds the incremental development of a local training project into the programme. Guidelines are taught during the training blocks in-between which the students grow their own leadership development initiative in four distinct stages (Research & Sensitisation; Planning & Preparation; Training & Coordination; Monitoring & Evaluation). Another applied paper is Preaching with Peer Review in which students’ preaching is developed and peer-assessed, which includes utilising the time set aside for devotions. Students also take a Church Placement Paper and their own Practical Theology Project. The final two courses are simply ‘support courses’: English & Study Skills and Computer Studies.

If you have read this far, congratulations. You will at the very least have realised that this is boring but important. But you might be among those who appreciate the creativity of the course, which it is hoped, quite apart from its impact through the BUILD network, will inspire innovation further afield.