Fostering Community Development in Malawi

Teaching can’t happen alone.  It takes an idea and passionate commitment.  So, each member of the cohort comes to the training with an innate desire to see something different right where they live, work, and worship.

 These leaders don’t just want to build a new building or start a new program.  Their goal is to get at the root of the problems their communities face, so that the weight of that challenge is lighter, and the emotional drag relieved.

 One of the greatest challenges the church in Malawi faces is establishing a ministry model where the church takes on the role of extending mercy in very real and tangible ways.  They fight an age-old problem in the community: missionary work that stressed teaching the word, but not taking that next step to “practice” what Christ preaches.  There is a desire for government to solve the problems, but the challenge is much bigger than any government can tackle. 

 As we all know, reversing history is impossible.  It will take a partnership of vested parties – passionate leaders, government entities, and the church – to move forward together and really tackle some seemingly insurmountable challenges.

So, come November, three classes of pastors will launch.  Taught in the language of Chichewa, the classes will take place in the capital city of Lilongwe, in Dedza, and in Mvera. Being the first phase, all these places are in the central region of Malawi so that Leonard can oversee the work diligently and easily. The months-long process starts with classroom work, includes elements of group education, and then allows for time to implement the phase at home.  

The Handbook Across Africa: An Overview

 Mocha Club 
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    The six phases of the Common Ground Handbook that, together, build a strategic plan for change in a community.

The six phases of the Common Ground Handbook that, together, build a strategic plan for change in a community.

What started with the shared vision and input of eight country directors partnered with African Leadership U.S. staff is now a published handbook that is a living document for use throughout Africa. The students in Malawi – and in three other countries in Africa where the Handbook is currently in use – will follow the above six phases.

All along, the curriculum is delivered through the lens of a Biblical Worldview – which speaks not just to what we do, but to who we serve and how we serve them.  Biblical Worldview encourages teachers and students to accomplish this practical work as aligned partners with the church, and acknowledging that God’s perspective on these issues that ravage communities is critical. 

Each active country – Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Malawi - is at a different stage in the training.  But each brings together pastors and community leaders who know that the spiritual and the physical work in tandem in any given community, and must be addressed in order to reach change.   

Just as the students of the Handbook are on a journey, so too is the development of the Handbook.  Today, with the Handbook available in both iBook and paper format, we’re running an “A/B” test to determine what’s the most effective way to “teach” it.  Is translation and paper most cost effective?  Or is technology?  Do students engage and remain in the training at higher rates when using paper or tech-based curriculum?  And, most important, how does our curriculum resonate with the students?  Are there tweaks that can be made?  Is it spurring action?

 Evaluation like this is critical to the Handbook itself, and to the Common Ground Spaces that are birthed from this work.  Each quarter, the classes will report their progress, assess pre- and post-learning, and share engagement of each student in class material.  By measuring these elements of the training, data and insight – not guesswork – work together to offer training that truly fosters partnership in community development.  

Preliminary results like this excite us, and we’ll continue to share with you the results along the way.  Thank you for joining us in the journey.