Agnes waited for us at the church on a sticky Thursday afternoon in August of 2016. She had heard we were going to be stopping by her church and she had left her wage-earning work aside to wait for us. She had news she wanted to tell us!
In the fall of 2015, with the help of a visiting team of volunteers from the US, we had put up a Sunday school shelter at Agnes’ church as part of our Sunday School Shelter Project. The project assists churches with simple, climate-appropriate shelters for children’s ministry.
Within a few weeks, attendance at Agnes’s church swelled from about 75 children to over 200. The influx of children overwhelmed Agnes and the other the teachers and sparked a hunger to learn more effective ways of teaching. The old ways, rote learning and memorization, were not very effective, and the teachers were concerned the new children would not continue to come if nothing captivated their attention.
We arranged a teacher-training seminar in February of 2016, and Agnes was among the 75 teachers who attended, coming not only from Temple El-Shadai, but from a dozen or more other churches in the region.
When we arrived that day, Agnes was waiting for us. She greeted us with a warm embrace. “S’il vous plait, Madame.” I turned to her and noticed the anticipation glowing on her face as she began to speak.
“I wanted to tell you that I have been using the methods you taught us in my class,” she began. “The illustrations, the teaching games, the storytelling methods. And the parents have been coming to me, pleading, ‘Madame, what are you doing in children’s church?’
“I asked them what they meant and they said, ‘My children never used to want to come to church. Now they want to come. I used to ask them what they learned at church and they couldn’t tell me. Now they tell me exactly what they learned. What are you doing?’
“So I invited them to come see. They loved my class so much that they wanted to stay too. I had to chase them off and make them go back to the adult service!” Her eyes shone with the telling and I laughed at the image of her chasing mothers and fathers back to church. A little training had made a big difference.
Agnes was already in an ideal position to influence the lives of children in the Aflao-Sagbado neighborhood long before we met her. She lives in the neighborhood. She encounters the children in her daily life and she understands them. She is able to form relationships with them and to model Christian life in their culture and context. What she lacked was training.
We train so that children may be effectively discipled in their own communities by their own leaders.
How do we do teacher training?
- Teacher-training seminars: Often one local church will host a seminar and invite the teachers from all the local churches in the region. A typical seminar is two full days, and we have taught as many as several hundred teachers at once, and as few as a dozen. We have taught these seminars since 2000 in many locations across the continent of Africa. Our current focus is on the sub-region of West Africa, which includes sixteen nations.
- Training of Trainer seminars: We are not physically able to reach every church in West Africa, but by forming new trainers, we empower West African people to take charge of training others, and we expand our influence.
We teach seminars for teachers in the local church and we prepare leaders to train others through Training of Trainer seminars and events.
How do we choose where and who to train?
- Training of Trainer seminars are planned to be strategic. We have done ToT seminars at the national level in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Liberia. Those that graduated from our training are now tasked with training others at a regional level. Regional trainers will then go to the churches in their region to do active and ongoing training with local teachers. This formal plan for systematic training is currently off to a good start in all three of these nations, and we are working to expand it to all of West Africa.
- Teacher-training seminars, those designed to teach local teachers, sometimes happen because we will be in a particular country for just a few weeks and we want to make the most of the time, but often they happen by invitation. We accept as many invitations as we can and we encourage the host church to invite teachers from other churches so as many as possible can participate. We are also looking at ways to use these seminars to mentor newly formed trainers and allow them to begin training.
We want to encourage national Children’s ministry departments to systematically train their teachers. To do this, they need trainers committed to going to all the churches and investing in ongoing and active mentoring.
What subjects do teacher training seminars teach?
The basic teacher-training seminar covers topics that any children’s ministry worker needs to know in order to be effective at discipling children.
The seminar always includes:
- Why Teach Children Creatively: A study about what the Bible says about the importance of teaching children and why creative methods are worth the extra effort they require.
- Creative Storytelling Methods
- Creative Illustrations
- Using Games to Teach
The seminar may include:
- Using Curriculum
- Creating Lessons without Curriculum
- Classroom Discipline
All the seminars are taught modeling the creative methods we promote. For example, in the session on games, participants play games to learn about using games. In the storytelling session, participants will hear and participate in several stories, and in the Illustrations session, students will work together in groups to create their own illustrations.
The takeaway from all of our seminars is the principle that the more you participate in a lesson, the more you learn.
How can I be involved?
Thank you so much for your interest in The Malcolms in Africa Children’s Ministry Training Seminars. We would be glad to answer any further questions you might have about the project, and we appreciate your partnership. Together, we can build children’s ministry in Africa, reaching a generation for Christ and shaping the future of a continent.