East African Churches strengthen leadership training for rural pastors

Bishop Albert Randa of the Mwanza Diocese of Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania teaches church polity to candidates for ordination. Photo courtesy of Joe and Gloria Bontrager/EMM
Release date: 
Monday, 22 June 2015

Mwanza, Tanzania Bishops in the Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (Tanzanian Mennonite Church) and Kenya Mennonite Church are working to meet the need for local, affordable training for village pastors.

To do so, they have partnered with Eastern Mennonite Missions workers Joe and Gloria Bontrager, originally from the United States, who are developing and implementing a basic-level curriculum and sustainable model for training church leaders.

The Bontragers travel to various districts to begin the program with a “Training of Trainers” seminar. By teaching the basic material and modeling how to teach, they equip local leadership with all they need to facilitate the 12-course, two-year training on their own.

To date, they have done 15 “Training of Trainers” seminars in seven of the ten dioceses of Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania and in five of the seven dioceses of Kenya Mennonite Church. In many instances, bishops also lead the seminars; such was the case in the Mwanza Diocese of Tanzania, where Bishop Albert Randa taught a course on church polity to candidates for ordination.

The program is having a strong impact on the churches because the curriculum is designed to directly address pastors’ gaps in biblical and denominational understanding. For example, leaders asked to have a class specifically on Mennonite distinctives. They were finding that many parishioners did not know what made Mennonites distinct from other denominations.

Another reason for the curriculum’s impact is the Bontragers’ mode of instruction. African teaching is often based on lectures and rote learning, but the Bontragers want to emphasize personal processing, reflection, and open discussion. The study material is not focused on simply transferring information, but rather on creating dialogue about how to apply the material.

Church leaders believe these trainings will make leadership training for pastors accessible and affordable, allowing emerging leaders to maintain home and family responsibilities. They are also beginning to see the trainings bear fruit as students share what they have learned with others.

—Adapted from an article by Chris Fretz and Amanda Miller, Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM)


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