“Systems and structures that allow local churches to train their own leaders”

Ben Kibara (left) networking in Nairobi

Nine years ago we reported on a “bold and comprehensive approach” to implement BUILD in the Diocese of Butere, Western Kenya. So much has happened since then across the Church and Revd Canon Capt Benjamin Kibara has been instrumental in the developments. It is high time we caught up with him.

Benjamin, that plan (reported here) was for “a weekly training-of-trainers meeting for all the clergy, and one for the ordinands and other select leaders”. How did it all go?

The plan went on very successfully. We were able to train all the clergy through module one of BUILD. That then helped us to select some of them to join a training-of-trainers cohort, with 25 participants drawn from across the West of Kenya. We also had an Ordinands cohort with 30 participants and a school Chaplains cohort with 15. This led to around sixty graduating in Jan 2019 and they have continued to impact more than 700 other leaders – 693 was the exact number in the initial follow-on training but many others have been influenced of course. Training has also continued at AICMAR and last year 67 students graduated at both certificate and diploma levels. The certificates were in a related programme, which those trained in BUILD have helped to teach, and those at the diploma level were equipped to reach and teach others.  

You must have learnt so much from all that experience, what were the key lessons?

From the initial training at AICMAR we learned how important it is for the local church to train her own leaders – rather than them being trained elsewhere and having to return and face the context that they had become detached from. BUILD training was not only in-service, but it was contextual as well. This provided an opportunity for continuous reflection on Scripture and the reality of the challenges of ministry – and finding solutions to those challenges. The majority of the graduands have since been ordained and have continued to implement the lessons they learnt to their ministry, as they lead congregations – especially in equipping the lay readers and evangelists who serve under them.

Since then a great deal has happened. You and the family had been in cross-cultural mission in the west of Kenya and then returned to Nairobi in 2019. How have you coped with that?

Change and transition in ministry is always challenging and unpredictable. The uncertainty is taken away by having faith in the unchanging God, who always keeps his promises. As a family, we were received warmly by ACK St Stephens Church, Mugutha, in the diocese of Thika. CMS-Africa has also provided much needed fellowship, prayer and encouragement.

Immediately after we relocated, the country was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Movement and interactions with members of a new church was limited. However, I used that time to study online and then in mixed-mode for an MA in organizational leadership, which has been very helpful in building networks, partnerships and collaborations with churches and training institutions.

And that networking has been bearing such fruit. Within the ACK you have been systematically growing BUILD’s presence. How have you been going about that?

Those partnerships and collaborations have really helped us to grow the presence of BUILD. For example, we have partnered with Carlile College in Nairobi and Bishop Hannington Institute in Mombasa, where we are regularly conducting week-long intensive training for their certificate and diploma students. We also collaborated with St Paul’s University, Limuru to accredit the BUILD-based diploma which is being offered at AICMAR in Butere. As a result of this we are now in the final stages of now offering that BUILD-based diploma at Carlile College, which will reach both urban pastors serving in the informal settlements, but also rural pastors who can then be trained through the eight satellite centres of the college, spread across the country. This will really open things up, and they will be equipped to equip others locally as part of that programme.

Ben, that is so exciting to hear. And you have also played a key role in serving the BUILD programme more widely too: helping with new projects in Tanzania and Ethiopia for example. Is there one insight from that which stands out, which you have brought back to Kenya?

One of the main lessons I brought home is the need for bishops and senior church leaders to be intentional in creating systems and structures that allow local churches to train their own leaders. In 2 Tim 2:2 Paul urges Timothy to identify potential faithful leaders who will also train others. If the Pauls of our generation can be diligent in identifying and equipping Timothys, we can be sure of safeguarding gospel truth for future generations.

You have been an example of that Ben. You mentioned your masters and have now begun a PhD at St Paul’s University alongside your work – what will you focus on and why?

My focus will be on Practical Theology with a special interest on models of local church leadership development – because of that challenge described above. This will be a multi-disciplinary study drawing from Biblical Studies, Missions and Practical Theology.

Ben, thank you for your time and all you are doing.

Featured picture: Ben (left of photo) networking in Nairobi.