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Area Studies

What can we learn by comparing practices and customs in different societies around the world?

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Reflection: An Autobiographical Sketch of My Work with Children’s Education in Kenya

WCIU Journal: Area Studies Topic

February 20, 2017

by Lois Semenye

This article was originally published in the WCIU Press book, Agents of International Development and Shalom.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

As a young Sunday School teacher of children, I noticed the need for relevant and authentic biblical materials that would address the needs of my Kenyan students. Specifically, the illustrations in the materials were foreign and difficult to understand. Sometimes it was easier to just explain the Bible passage without the foreign illustrations. I knew I needed more education to be able to help in this.

I was very fortunate that some missionaries decided to invest in my education and helped me secure a sponsor who paid my way to a Christian University in the USA. At Covenant College, I further developed my love for teaching and felt a strong desire to promote Christian education in my home country. Upon my return to Kenya, I helped set up a Christian Education department in a local church. The more I taught and trained others, the more I felt the need to further my education. In 1980, I joined the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson Mississippi through the help of the missionary organization. I was awarded Master’s degree in Christian Education in 1982. This opened up more opportunities for me in Kenya. I was not only serving in a local church but also I was asked to help in developing a Christian University in Kenya.

At the University, I was able to promote Christian education and particularly the integration of faith and learning and living. Again, I felt the need to pursue further education, so between 1987 and 1990 I attended Biola University and I was awarded PhD. Upon my return in Kenya, I continued to teach at Daystar University. As the head of Education Department, I was able to conduct seminars for faculty that encouraged integrative teaching of faith, knowledge, and living. However, the need to develop relevant Christian curriculum for our churches was still there.

In 1997, Christian Learning Materials Centre (CLMC) invited me to head the organization and oversee the development of Christian materials across Africa. CLMC is a project of Association of Evangelicals in Africa that produces Christian materials that are relevant to the African culture. Besides production of materials, there was also a great need to train the teachers on how to use them. This made me trek across Africa training teachers and holding seminars for Sunday School teachers and pastors to challenge them to take children’s ministry seriously. I wrote a book targeting the pastors on children ministry, Let the Children Come. The book includes the following chapters:

• What the Bible says about Children Importance of Children’s Ministry
• Defining the Child Social Factors Influencing Children Characteristics and Needs of Children
• Organizing a Children’s Ministry in Church Teacher Commitment
• How to Teach the Children
• Who should Teach Children
• Teaching Methods
• Teaching Aids
• Recruitment of Children’s Teachers
• How to Lead a Child to Christ
• Discipline
• Characteristics of Children Living in Poverty
• Characteristic of Children Living in Affluence

I was able to hold seminars in different churches and denominations and in some of these churches the ministry to children increased dramatically. In 2003 I joined the faculty of International Leadership University where I taught in the department of Christian Education and Formation. God was able to use me to influence a number of pastors to invest in children’s ministry. I can think of one who started a ministry to children in a slum in Nairobi. This pastor was so motivated that he not only improved in teaching children on Sunday in the Sunday school but also started a primary school where he engaged Christian teachers to teach the pupils. The ministry is growing and the children are learning to fear the Lord.

I have been presenting papers and writing articles in the area of Christian education including,
• “The Theological Context of Children in Africa Today”
• “Christian Worldview: Implication for Educational Curricula”
• “The Challenges of Christian Higher Education in African Context”
• “Spiritual Formation of Christian Leaders”
• “The Challenge of Literature in Africa: Analytical Study of the Production, Distribution, and Effective Use of the Written Word in Evangelism and Missions in Africa.”

I was among the 72 African Theologians to contribute to the Africa Bible Commentary with an article on Christian Education in Africa and a commentary of the Book of Esther. These publications have given me platform to speak to various leaders, consequently influencing them as they influence their own constituents to the glory of God. I have been discipling, mentoring, and coaching many young people throughout my Christian faith. Wherever I am I believe I should have a young Timothy that I am mentoring in the importance and methods of Christian education.

* This article was first published in the WCIU Press book, Agents of International Development and Shalom.

Lois Semenye, PhD, is a Kenyan Scholar and Educator. She serves as a Board member for the  International Council for Higher Education  and also contributed two articles to the   Africa Bible Commentary  .

Lois Semenye, PhD, is a Kenyan Scholar and Educator. She serves as a Board member for the International Council for Higher Education and also contributed two articles to the Africa Bible Commentary.