PARTNERS IN TRAINING FOR MISSION AND MINISTRY
Cliff College is a Methodist institution with an evangelical, ecumenical and mission ethos. It has a proud history of giving training to Christian lay-people of all denominations from many parts of the world for over 100 years. More recently it has become a chosen centre for the further training of both ministers and lay people through its pioneering and popular distance learning courses validated by Manchester University and offered from Diploma through to Doctorate Level.
Learning and reflection linked with praxis has become the hallmark of these part-taught (during residential weeks), part-self-study (reading and assignments) and part-research/placement assessed courses which are usually completed over two-years. During the past thirteen years Cliff College through its International Training Centre has used this basic template to pioneer, pilot and develop successfully a visionary training concept in association with partner churches in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
In 2002 the British Methodist Church provided primary funding of £20,000 a year for two years and we began to explore what would be involved in using this well-proven template to do training overseas in partnership with local churches and Christian Councils. At the invitation of, and in partnership with, the Christian Council of Sierra Leone (CCSL) Cliff College ran a very successful ecumenical pilot programme at the Theological College in Freetown. This resulted in 73 of the 99 trainees who began the two-year course in 2002 completing and being awarded by Cliff College an International Diploma in Applied Ministry and Mission (IDIAMM) in 2004.
Once underway the project attracted additional support from a variety of sponsors, including MMS(Ireland), UMC(Germany), SPCK/Feed The Minds, Methodist Insurance and the Langham Partnership. This support meant that during the pilot programme in Sierra Leone and later in Nigeria all trainees, including those who were not successful, received lecture notes and contextualised teaching (through a partnership of local and international lecturers). Every trainee was given large numbers of books to study (retailing at several hundred pounds sterling). They will continue to enrich their ministry in the years that lie ahead. Associated with the CCITC programme in Sierra Leone, training was given also to Local Preachers and key Women Workers.
A positive evaluation of the two-year pilot project in post-conflict Sierra Leone prompted the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone (MCSL) to request further training in ‘Leadership and Administration’ for those in ministry and for Conference Office Staff. This training and equipping with computers, printers etc. of key personnel involved in the community re-building and reconciliation programmes of the church was undertaken by a visiting team who made three visits in March 2006; October 2006; February 2007. In November 2009 a follow-up refresher programme was undertaken, which brought the ordained ministers together for a training consultation and encouraged the locally appointed trainers at regional events. Again in 2013, in association with the MCSL Conference, refresher training with supplementary Teaching CD’s was provided for former students. In October 2013, we began with Part 1 of a two part training course on Effective Management & Administration for Superintendent Ministers and Conference Office staff. Part 2 of this course planned for February 2014 was dramatically curtailed by the devastating outbreak of Ebola that delayed further training until November 2015. That delayed visit backed up by further training in March 2016 (accompanied by a container-full of resources) saw large numbers of leaders (men, women and youth) encouraged post-Ebola, and we are preparing now for further training planned for July 2017.
In 2005 the Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN) asked us to develop an IDIAMM course, similar to that piloted in Sierra Leone, but with a special emphasis on training ‘evangelism trainers’ as the church re-positioned itself with a fresh focus on mission. This two-year programme with January & July ‘Residentials’ began in July (2006-08) at two Methodist Colleges in Nigeria led to 108 trainees graduating in July 2008. Additional programmes (2008-10) saw 129 key presbyters graduating in July 2010 and again (2010-12) with 141 graduating in August 2012. Many of our trainees and Nigerian lecturers associated with the programme have since been appointed to leading positions in the church and some are now Bishops.
Thanks to the support received from the British Methodist Church, MMS(Ireland), and the generosity of other sponsors, our ‘Partnership in Training’ programmes undertaken within Nigeria since 2005 have seen further training in mission and ministry being given to several hundred Lay Pastors, Evangelists, Priests, Presbyters, Bishops and more recently Lay Leaders. In November 2013/February 2014 a two-part training programme for Lay Leaders climaxed with 83 of them obtaining a Cliff College Certificate in Methodism, Leadership and Mission.
In July 2009 we felt privileged to be invited to lead a three-day ‘Episcopal Training Consultation’on ministry and mission attended by the Prelate, 9 Archbishops and 40+ bishops of MCN. Again thanks to our sponsors we were able to supply key books and lecture notes to all those attending the Consultation. This ‘Episcopal’ pilot was followed up at MCN expense during the their 2013 (23rd April to May 10th) UK visit as 46 MCN Bishops attended lectures and reunions with former mission partners at Cliff College, visited UK Districts (two by two) and shared in a pilgrimage punctuated by prayer at many Methodist Heritage sites.
This ‘Episcopal’ pilot was followed up at MCN expense during their 2013 (23rd April to May 10th) UK visit as 46 MCN Bishops attended lectures and were reunited with former mission partners at Cliff College, visited UK Districts (two by two) and shared in a pilgrimage punctuated by prayer at many Methodist Heritage sites. These pioneering Study/Heritage Tours were repeated in June 2014 and June 2015 with good numbers of lay and ministerial leaders from Nigeria making the most of the opportunity to learn more about their “Mother Church”.
Further support will be given to Nigeria through the continued training of Ministers and Lay Leaders during April 2017, as two of our dedicated lecturers spend two weeks at Sagamu MTI lecturing on Methodism and Mission in the New Testament.
Our most recent extension of the exciting work of CCITC has been with the youngest of our Methodist Churches in East Africa, which is to be found in Uganda. In a follow-up to a year of on-the-ground practical training with larger numbers of lay pastors led by Revd Wesley Campbell of MMS(I), a ‘Pathfinding’ training programme with large numbers of lay (and younger) church leaders took place in July 2014. This was followed up with further training visits held at the scenic YWAM Training College on the shores of Lake Victoria near Jinja, in July 2015 and August 2016. In May 2017, we hope to see up to 40 of those trainees graduating with an International Diploma In Applied Ministry and Mission, (IDIAMM) having completed their assignments and the practical training of others in Uganda, which is a requirement for the course.
As we have shown, the IDIAMM and other CCITC programmes with books provided, is flexible enough to meet changing circumstances, different cultures and contexts, and allows us to respond to the specific concerns of our partner churches.
Usually Courses include modules on:
- Study & Research Skills; Improving English;
- Adult Learning and Training in Communication;
- Mission in the Old Testament; Evangelism in the New Testament;
- Encountering other Religions &Sects; Applied Ministry & Leadership (incl. Pastoral);
- Worship & Preaching (incl. visits to and assessment of local growing Churches);
- Christian Spirituality (& journal writing);
- Church Growth in (African) Church History (including teaching on Methodism);
- Applied Evangelism; Aids Awareness; Community Development etc.
In Nigeria it was agreed that we should incorporate in the IDIAMM programme a requirement upon the trainees (largely evangelists, deaconesses and ministers) that they should be involved also in new mission initiatives: planting churches; starting community projects; training evangelists (especially in the vernacular); in their local situation, throughout the two year course. Their success (or otherwise) with this is assessed through the submission of an Applied Evangelism portfolio and with a research project (8,000-8,500 word) as part of the overall course.
Seed funding of around £23,000 a year from the British Methodist Church for each course has attracted further donations and funding from elsewhere. Sponsors have helped to resource trainees, local staff and college libraries associated with each of these courses.
Our partner churches in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Uganda have contributed to the course costs by providing buildings, lecturing resources, local travel and hospitality for the visiting team.
Outside the programme budget, many thousands of pounds continue to be generated through visiting lecturers, for projects as diverse as Manse rebuilding in Sierra Leone and College water supplies and many other projects in Nigeria and Uganda.
The cost of travel, visas and out of pocket expenses for a visiting team of 6-8 people utilised for the 2-3 weeks residentials, twice a year are met from the budget. The visiting lecturers, who are partnered with local lecturers, engage in a mutually profitable exchange of insights, lecture notes and other materials that enriches their continuing ministry.
Several hundred full-time church workers have received (further) training and resources (at a cost of £500 per trainee per annum) through tailored courses that address their own concerns and contexts whilst they continue with their own ministry.
Whilst every effort is made to maintain the courses and training at appropriate academic levels, the Cliff College validation, has freed the course from the additional costs and constraints that would be imposed by affiliation to a British university.
The CCITC concept of ‘Doing training overseas with partner churches’ has proved itself economically viable, practically possible and adaptable to differing situations and circumstances (including a brief but enriching training visit to Cuba).
The door has been opened to a different kind of relationship with our partners in our mission to the world. Since the inception of this innovative and pioneering programme in 2001 specific reports (DVD’s, CD’s; Photos and more recently Memory Sticks) on every aspect of the programme have been produced along with reviews and evaluations. Copies of these can be made available to interested parties and sponsors.
Our hope is that the success of this ‘Doing Training There in Partnership’ programme will inspire general recognition on the part of all churches (and former missionary societies) that doing training overseas with partner churches should be an accepted model of modern training in mission. With all the associated benefits in terms of renewing personal relationships for all parties concerned, it is a worthwhile investment for the future of the church worldwide.
CCITC welcomes donations made through Cliff College from individuals or organisations who wish to support any aspect of the work that we share in with our overseas partners.
(Revised and updated January 2017)