96850 Children’s Ministry Capacity Building – Malawi

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Project Vision: The objective of this project is to build the capacity of the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) to minister effectively to children through strengthening Sunday schools, establishing mid-week children's ministries and teaching caregivers with biblical parenting skills & values. As a result children will hear the gospel, be discipled, and learn life skills to help them cope with living in an environment of high HIV prevalence and child abuse.

Seeing the Improvements

OSince the main objective of this project is to “build the capacity of the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) to minister effectively to children” it is especially exciting when you hear stories of when this is actually happening in rural Malawian villages. Let me share two stories with you as examples of how capacity is growing and making a difference in communities and in the lives of the children to whom we minister.

Being empowered & empowering others

In Sankhulani, the AEC Sunday school teachers who had  through the project,  decided to start mid-week children’s bible clubs both at the church and also in a neighbouring village. After a while the Sunday school teachers at other churches noticed that the kids were learing a lot better at the AEC clubs than at theirs. Consequently they approached the AEC teachers to ask if they would help train their teachers. So, they did, and now they are working together at the bible club in the village, supporting each other and also reaching the kids more effectively in their various churches. This co-operation and working together is not always common in a culture where knowledge is power & gives status such that those who have been trained do not want to share their skills and knowledge with others. What a great outcome for the project – not only has the capacity of teachers been built within the AEC but also they have a mind-set and willingness to empower others, even those from other denominations. What a great witness to God’s people working together to teach kids about God and build His kingdom amongst the next generation of Malawian’s.

Genuine Behaviour Change

Another encouraging story is from those who were empowered to start a ‘Today for Tomorrow’ pilot program in several local primary schools.  They report that both parents & headmasters have obsesrved a distinct change in kid’s behaviour particularly in terms of respecting one another and not showing discrimination. The albino kids are no longer being called ‘million’ (because albino body parts are sold for millions of kwacha for traditional ‘medicine’), boys are no longer lifting girls dresses as girls learn when they can say ‘no’ to inappropriate touch, truancy has dropped as the kids take on board the importance of education for their own future. What a great example of how empowering the church members has enabled the children to hear the gospel, be discipled, and learn life skills to help them cope with living in an environment of high HIV prevalence and child abuse.

Prayer requests

For wisdom in planning & implementing the roll-out of Today for Tomorrow

For God to continue to provide the needed project funding

That there will be continued genuine behaviour change in the children (and their teachers)

Progress

Over the past 6 months we have made good progress in the following areas:

Follow up of ‘Today for Tomorrow’ Pilot programs: Several follow up trips have been made to the 3 locations running the pilot programs (Kawale, Dande (3 schools), & Sankhulani/Masenjere. Feedback from both teachers & parents has been very positive (read story below) and has given some good tips for effective running of the program. The National Co-ordinator has started to develop his strategy & implementation plan for rolling this program out to a number of other schools which church members have some involvement already.

Follow up of ‘Sunday School Teacher’ Trainers: Since being trained last Easter, the 23 trainers have faithfully been travelling to churches in their areas and by the end of September had completed trainings for virtually all the Sunday school teachers throughout all the AEC churches. The project contributed some worksheets for teachers & limited transport money when they needed to go to very remote locations but it has been encouraging to see the trainers themselves and the local Area Council & local churches making contributions both for transport & also in provision of food during trainings. The AEC National Children’s co-ordinator himself completed a few of the 1 day trainings for the most remote churches (eg Phalombe, Chintheche & including some just over the border in Mozambique) and because there were so many small remote churches in the Chididi area it was agreed that the National Co-ordinator, together with SIM Children’s Co-ordinator, Biulanty Thabah, should run a 2 day training which was attended by 24 Sunday school teachers representing 9 churches in May (pictured below are group discussion & whole group with their certificates). It was encouraging to see that a number of the teachers were those originally trained by Jim Young approx 10 years ago and that they were still faithfully continuing their Sunday school ministries.

 

 

Mentoring & follow up with Area Council Children’s Co-ordinators  (ACCCs): During the last 6 months the National Co-ordinator has maintained regular contact with the ACCCs to discuss their progress compared to their annual work plans. Some are doing extremely well and have been well supported by their Area Council, however a few are struggling for a variety of reason (lack of support, relationship issues, personal circumstances etc) and the National Co-ordinator has been able to counsel & encourage so that good solutions to issues can be found. The most significant outstanding issue is with one of the Area Councils who, despite on-going encouragement, are resisting changing the Area Council Children’s Co-ordinator despite their lack of activity/commitment.

Mid-week ministries: The last 6 months has seen a growing number of churches starting mid-week ministries across all Area Councils. The majority have been either after school bible clubs or preschool nurseries. We are continuing to work towards making the Today for Tomorrow lessons available for use in the after schools clubs, and the National Co-ordinator will also connect with SIM HOPE for AIDS Orphan Care co-ordinator to explore working together on developing good trainings & curriculum for those running the preschools.

Resource Collection & Development: Over the last 6 months, the ‘Today for Tomorrow’ year 1 lessons have been translated into Chichewa as a draft which will now need some editing and refining before seeking final permission for wider distribution.

Some additional chichewa resources (Life Changers curriculum from Children’s Bible Ministries) were procured and are being tried out in Chilomoni AEC Sunday school before looking at promoting their use more widely in AEC.

Rev Jim Young (SIM Malawi Children’s Ministry) donated more of his Sunday school lesson booklets to the church for distribution.

Building Church Ownership: During the follow up visits, the National Co-ordinator took the opportunity to meet with various church leaders, pastors, Area Council chairmen and had the chance to re-iterate the vision for children’s ministry. It has been very encouraging to hear that many councils, churches & individuals have contributed their personal time & resources to the ministry which is a good indicator of growing ownership and valuing of the activities. Additionally we have seen that the increasing number of good reports of development in Children’s ministries which are reaching the AEC HQ has resulted in an increased financial support towards the National Co-ordinators ministry costs.

Capacity Building & Equipping the AEC National Children’s Co-ordinator

In the last 6 months the capacity of the National Children’s Co-ordinator has grown through:

Attending trainings held by CBM (Children’s Bible Ministries), and Every Generation International (part 2 of their training program).

Acting as ‘recorder’ for the SIM Malawi HOPE for AIDS Orphan project evaluation (growing in his project monitoring & evaluation skills)

Enrollment in a 12 month course (meeting 1 day/month) course on Islam being run by SIM (course fee funded by AEC Headquarters)

Attending the AEC annual church council which included 3 days pastor seminar facilitated by Timothy Olonade & David Kanda (from Nigeria) teaching on ‘Lifestyle, Christian Character & Ministry of a Pastor’ (funded under SIM Church Leadership Training project)

As a result of his growing abilities, knowledge and skills, a number of other groups involved in children’s

ministry have requested him to come & teach in their trainings eg in September he facilitated 3 sessions for CFCM (Children for Christ Ministry) who were running an interdenominational Sunday school teacher training in the Chikwawa district

Fundraising: A ‘request for support’ email was sent to selected SIM supporters known to have an interest in children’s ministry. We praise God for the monies received as a consequence which have enabled the program activities to continue and enable us to plan particularly in regard to further roll-out of the Today for Tomorrow program.

The SIM Children’s Co-ordinator, Biulanty Thabah, finished her first term of service and returned for her home assignment in August. Whilst she is hoping to return her support is uncertain and so her ability to return remains unclear.  It will fall to the AEC National Co-ordinator to continue her work of trying to mobilise members of the Lilongwe churches to step up and take over the children’s ministries she was involved with in the Lilongwe area.

Future Plans

Subject to sufficent funding we are planning the following major activities for the next 6 months:

Plan & implement ‘roll out’ for ‘Today for Tomorrow’ program (including materials in chichewa)

Work with the HOPE for AIDS Orphan Care co-ordinator on developing trainings/curriculum in support of new preschool mid-week ministries

Continue mentoring the Area Council Children’s Co-ordinators

National Children’s Co-ordinator will complete the course on Islam

Project background About half the population of Malawi is under 15 however culturally children have less status or importance in comparison to adults. This is reflected in the churches, there are many children in the churches but virtually no resources or programs aimed at their growth or discipleship. Sunday school in many places is merely child-minding in order to prevent children from disturbing the main church service and very few churches are involved in any mid-week children’s outreach ministries.

 


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