Through my over 20 years of experience in teaching and administration in Christian higher education institutions in Kenya, two main challenges have become apparent. The first is the challenge of long-term financial sustainability of theological institutions. Students’ fees alone cannot sustain them, and donor funding is becoming very scarce to find.
The second challenge is providing a more holistic and hands-on pastoral training that equips pastors with income-generating skills to sustain them when serving in areas where local churches and communities do not have the resources and capacity to support them. There has been minimal to no deliberate attempt in traditional theological education to address this challenge. Most pastors in Kenya end up serving in cities that have only about 30% of the population and about 20% of the churches.
Kenya has only three urban centers that have attained city status – Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Three others that follow closely but are not yet there include Nakuru, Eldoret and Thika. Over 70% of the population of 50 million people live in the rural villages and suburban centers scattered across the country. That is where the majority of Kenyan churches are found, and about 80% of them are led by untrained pastors who often have only high-school formal education or lower.
In these villages the poverty rate is so high that a majority of the graduates with higher levels of education and training in our already-established theological institutions do not see the village as the place for a trained pastor. They rightly say that their theological education did not equip them with the skills needed to live and serve in such places, where churches cannot support them. They have been trained primarily for pulpit ministry, and with the expectation that their local churches would provide the necessary material support.
On September 2, 2019, I brought together a small team of friends in Nairobi to work on the modalities of launching a new church leadership training institution that would be more deliberate in addressing these challenges. We agreed that the name of the institute would be Africa Mission Training Institute (AMTI), and we secured the required Kenyan government registration and incorporation on December 8, 2019.
In the September 2019 meeting, we had agreed that we would start the institute by first developing and launching special certificate programs to equip students with skills needed to help them engage in various income-generating projects. The two initial projects would be a Certificate in Poultry Management and a Certificate in Motor Cycle Repair and Service.
As we put together a smaller team to curate the curriculum for poultry management, we also established a model chicken farm in Nairobi with 4,000 chickens. This would serve as an income-generating project for the institute, and also as a training facility for the poultry management program. The farm became operational in February 2020. We expect to start generating US $3,000-5,000 per month through the sale of eggs.
Funding for the chicken project was solicited from our ministry friends and partners. We engaged a consultant in poultry farming to serve pro bono, on the condition that he will become one of our instructors when students are enrolled into the program. He will then be paid from the students’ tuition fees for course units within the program. The consultant is a young man who was voted nationally last year as the second best in the annual Youth Entrepreneurship Award in Kenya. He has been instrumental in promoting chicken farming in the country, especially among young entrepreneurs below the age of 35 years.
Since motorcycles are the most common mode of transportation in rural villages and suburban centers, skills in motorcycle repair and service could be a sustainable business wherever our pastors find themselves during and after their pastoral training. We therefore set up a special team to develop curriculum for the technical training needed in this area. This will take between three to six months to complete. AMTI is working on setting up training centers across the country, and we are currently considering four such places outside Nairobi. Like chicken farming, training in motorcycle repair and service, and the sale of spare parts, would each generate for the AMTI centers another US $2,000-4,000 per month.
Students would have the option of taking any of these basic programs to enable them to set up and manage chicken-rearing or motorcycle repair businesses in their rural villages, and to train others to do the same. Along with these two certificate programs, we will be offering diplomas in theology, biblical studies, Christian ministry, business entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship.
The training centers we are planning to establish across the country would require resources, expertise, collaborations and sharing of information with other institutions, churches and individuals. This way, we would be able to learn from and support one another as we all seek to think outside the box, exploring new methods of training Christian leaders and transforming communities locally and globally.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.