Nov. 12, 2021

African church leaders train in leadership, diakonia and development

African church leaders train in leadership, diakonia and development

Although it is unfolding in a mixed context of political and economic upheavals, tragic conflicts, exploitation, and enormous opportunities, growth, and successes, the African experience of diakonia and development has a lot to teach the world, a workshop for senior African church leaders heard.
Participants of the capacity building workshop on diakonia and development in Nairobi, Kenya on 8-12 November 2021. Photo: Fredrick Nzwili/WCC
12 November 2021

A key feature of the work is direct integration of all the other church work—worship, caring and fellowship—working hand-in-hand, and service being delivered by unpaid church workers, motivated by faith and love, Rev. Matthew Ross, programme executive of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Diakonia and Capacity Building, observed.

“The experience…is a crucial part of our learning. There is much to learn…which needs to be shared with the rest of the world. The experience differs enormously from parts of Europe and North Africa,” Ross said during a workshop on leadership, diakonia and development which convened in Nairobi from 8-12 November.

The capacity building workshop, organised by the All Africa Conference of Churches and the WCC, sought to empower church leaders with knowledge-based skills in the area, which they can use in their local contexts.

The leaders gained knowledge on diakonia and development to enable them to better manage and strategically think about the delivery of social care services.

While it raised the leaders’ awareness on issues and objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, it also helped network church leaders in East, Central and Southern Africa.

Coming to the forefront of development, the leaders have been engaging the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015-2030 in an attempt to shape the future of their congregations.

“Churches in the continent are crucial players in our nations and societies, many times called on to provide leadership or be a catalyst in diaconal and developmental engagements.  For this, we need to provide robust leadership,” said Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, All Africa Conference of Churches general secretary, to the meeting.

According to Ross, the Sustainable Development Goals are far from perfect—for example, the need to protect the rights of indigenous communities is not mentioned—but they offer an opportunity to greatly improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

“Issues such as climate change and the right to clean water affect everyone. In caring for the people in Christ’s name, the church has a responsibility to show a preferential option for the poor and to be a voice of the voiceless,” said Ross.

The workshop explored topics including human resource management, transformational leadership, ethical investment for sustainability and strategic management.

“God’s word establishes strategic planning as one of the ways he works through his people,” said Dr Stanley Ndung’u, a management consultant at the workshop. “But many church leaders are reluctant to adopt formal planning due to lack of training in the process. They believe planning is not biblical or it indicates lack of faith.”

According to Dr Bright Mawudor, All Africa Conference of Churches deputy general secretary, churches must understand ethical and moral issues in asset management to better use church resources for the propagation of the gospel.

“These days our members do not have money. The church has assets, land resources, but how do we take care of them?” posed Mawudor.

Church leaders welcomed the meeting as a great eyeopener.

“As a newly elected bishop, I am very grateful to be exposed to some of the themes like the Sustainable Development Goals and the Africa we want in 2063. This is very important to me since my work is mainly capacity building,” said Rev. Dr Emily Awino Onyango, Kenyan Anglican Church Diocese of Bondo assistant bishop.

For Rev. Adriano Kilende, an Angolan Methodist Church pastor, the churches are going to find strategic planning most useful.

“Most churches do not have strategic plans and, looking at the idea, the resources we have and how we can use them wisely—this was the best,” said the cleric.

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