What is the role of education in bringing the gospel to societies where Jesus is either not known or not followed?

From Africa: The Unique Role of Theological Education by Extension in Equipping Churches

WCIU Journal: Education Topic

October 9, 2017

by Kangwa Mabuluki

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the chapter, “Theological Education by Extension in Zambia,” by Kangwa Mabuluki in Diversified Theological Extension: Equipping All God’s People, edited by Ross Kinsler.

Focus, Mission, Aims, and Structure

The main focus of Theological Education, Zambia (TEEZ) is theological training. This training happens at the local church. To facilitate this, TEEZ trains local tutors, and produces course materials for the various subjects. These subjects cover such key and critical areas as Preaching, Counseling, Teaching, Leading Church Meetings, Church Constitution, and Worship. The course material is translated into local languages to ensure that it reaches those who need it in the local churches. The training provided by TEEZ is critical for the churches in Zambia because of the need for lay people to know and understand the theological stand as well as the governance and polity of their churches. The courses are also provided in prisons. The training is affordable and does not require the learners to leave their work and local situation to go to theological school or college. Because of the relevance and great demand for the training, there is need to ensure continuity and improvement through training of more tutors, providing refresher training for those already trained, as well as improving the course material.

ALL God’s People—Beyond Prison Walls

TEEZ has added a feature to its ministry that emphasised the training of all God’s people. This involved the extension of the training to prisons. Like most areas where TEEZ is involved, the initiative came as a response to a request from an organization, Prison Fellowship of Zambia, whose main focus is Christian witness in prisons. Prison Fellowship had constant requests from prisoners for substantive Bible study or Bible course material. Their effort to meet this need with Bible correspondence courses from Europe and America was not fully satisfactory. Their discovery of the availability of TEEZ courses proved a more adequate response to this need.…

The philosophy behind the acceptance to extend TEEZ ministry to prison, namely to participate in making prisons places of reform and also lessening the stigma of prison, demanded that TEEZ go beyond just offering courses to help with other areas. Thus as part of the program supplies were provided at least once a year, and, more importantly, a significant contribution towards reforming and making prisoners more self-supporting was initiated.

In Kamfinsa farming inputs were given each farming season to help the prisoners extend their farm to the level where it could produce sufficient income to sustain itself. After support for four years, the Officer in Charge reported that this target had been attained. In Mukobeko support was given for prisoners doing various skills training in carpentry, brick laying and tailoring to undergo trade tests so that they could obtain a trade certificate.

The support involved paying their exam fee and buying the material required for them to sit for the exam. The prison courses have had acknowledged impact on the life of the prisoners, the Officer in Charge of Kamfi nsa Prison acknowledged that “The behavior of those taking TEEZ courses evidently became less aggressive than before their involvement in TEEZ”. The Prison Ministry also provided an opportunity for wider ecumenical involvement. While outside prison, TEEZ is confined to member churches; in the prisons any prisoners can take the course irrespective of which church they come from. When they come out of prison, they take the good news of TEEZ to their churches, some of which are indigenous Zambian churches very much in need of the training provided by TEEZ.

A Unique Model of Ecumenical Cooperation—Increase in Church Participation and Joint Tutor Training and Committee

The ecumenical composition and potential of TEEZ makes us constantly declare that TEEZ is not just a training program; it is evidence that ecumenical cooperation among churches is possible. Ecumenical cooperation gives us the possibility to jointly address key issues such as HIV&AIDS, prisons, the maximum use of resources. Resources accessed by TEEZ may not be accessed by one single church but should benefit a wider constituency. Through TEEZ churches with no significant links to partners and little capacity to raise lay training resources are afforded a chance to have these resources in order to their people trained. As already noted through work in prisons, more churches are being reached and benefitting from the relevant training provided by TEEZ.

A Real Tool for Empowerment—Role and Participation of Women and Rural Churches (Rural Promotion)

Although the climax for many of the students is to receive their certificate of achievement at the end of each of their courses and eventually a Basic Certificate in Church Ministries or Advanced Certificate in Church Ministries for those that complete the five courses at basic level and six courses at advanced level, it is stressed that TEEZ courses are not just for academic advancement but are meant to train and impart skill that is of immediate and relevant use to the churches. In this regard the struggle has always been to ensure the courses in content and methodology are formational and outcome based. Because of this approach, the TEEZ courses have been a tool for empowerment, because the effect of those who go through the courses can be visibly seen and experienced.

Increasingly in many of the member churches, TEEZ is mentioned as a possible solution in identified areas of lack, especially preaching, teaching and worship. This empowerment is seen more among women. In most churches leadership and key functions of the church are not the domain of women, even in the case where such women are more able than the men. With TEEZ training such women have both the proof and the ability to be given the opportunity to exercise their particular ministries.

The other area where this empowerment element is valued most is in rural areas. In a country as poor as Zambia, resources in the form of literature are very scarce, even in urban areas. Many ministers have to struggle to get literature in the form of commentaries, etc., to help them in their work. This is worse for lay leaders, especially those in rural areas. TEEZ course material is of high quality and adapted to the use of lay leaders. So the members are not only empowered with actual course material but also with trained people among them to whom they can turn for support and consultation.