A new ‘formal’ BUILD initiative is launched in Kenya

The ‘formal’ aspect of the BUILD work has seen considerable development. At first trainers were being trained on the Uganda Martyrs Seminary site as a deliberate, but secondary, outcome of what was first and foremost a series of participatory-curriculum-development workshops. Many of those then pioneered more local training-of-trainers work, particularly in Uganda and Rwanda. That all led on to the same college offering a Diploma in Biblical Studies, Practical Theology & Leadership Development based on the modules created there (described in March 2015). Now, in Kenya, a diploma with the snappier title ‘Bible, Theology & Leadership’ is being taught.

How does this ‘formal’ aspect fit into the BUILD work? A quick search of this blog reveals the repeated use of the terms ‘formal’, ‘non-formal’ and ‘informal’ in relation to BUILD training. However, while there is an implicit presentation of this threefold typology there is no explicit explanation of what is fundamental to the structure of BUILD. Hence this post.

In the discourse around training in the global South there is an understandable tendency to separate out formal ‘academic’ theological education (which meshes with national education systems), from non-formal ‘grassroots’ approaches (that are structured carefully, but sit separate from those structures). And those approaches often lead to or include the vital informal training and outcomes that serve the mission of the church. BUILD, from the outset, has sought to integrate these three elements, not least in order to help bridge the gulf that local church leaders and theological students perceive exists between the academy and the local church and its mission.

Linked to this, BUILD has sought, in the context of the extreme needs for capacity building, to integrate multiplication into the same system. The presupposition behind that is this: only a small minority can afford the time and money for residential training (or have the privilege of the educational background required to enter and cope). And the institutions only have the capacity to serve this minority. Whilst in the West it might be excusable to organise training around an arithmetic of addition, in most parts of Africa it is indefensible if the privileged few who do make it to college are not trained to multiply up the impact of their training. The few must be equipped to equip the many, and their training must be tailored to do so in deliberate ways.

That is the intention of the formal, training-of-trainers element of BUILD training: not only are select students strengthened in their own theology and practice, they are deliberately equipped to train others at a non-formal level. Therefore BUILD welcomes the initiative and partnership of Butere Diocese and AICMAR (the African Institute for Contemporary Mission & Research), in pioneering the new Diploma in Bible, Theology & Leadership, based on the BUILD curriculum, which incorporates lessons learnt from the earlier efforts in Uganda.

26 students arrived for the training, representing seven dioceses in western Kenya and two in Tanzania. It was the first of four, three-week, residential blocks that will take place over the next two years, with the incremental development of local training initiatives and other requirements in between. And they have been taught, from the word go, using a picture of a productive mango tree, that the foundation of BUILD is the ‘formal’ training of trainers (the roots), the focus of BUILD is the ‘non-formal’ equipping of church leaders in local groups (the trunk and branches), and the fruit of BUILD is the ‘informal’ impact those leaders then have on other leaders, congregations and communities (all the fruit and leaves and shade the tree brings).

It will be interesting to see if the immediate knock on effect is for them to increase themselves tenfold or whether some manage “thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown” (Mark 4:20), and whether we will witness an impact of 260, 780, 1,560 or 2,600 others being equipped as a result, not least when the formal, non-formal and informal aspects are all factored in.