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.