Analysis: GODFREY CHITALU
ALTHOUGH the Catholic Church and the Seventh Day Adventist are leading in “brick and mortar” stand – alone universities in our country, the wider church has generally not utilised their inherent muscle within their four corners to run universities.
I have always wondered why our churches can’t take advantage of operating internally as colleges and universities. With accreditation most mainstream churches have what it takes to run as national certificate awarding learning centres; faithful adherents in their droves, a captive knowledge seeking audience, a mix of men and women with academic stamina and underutilised Saturdays and Sundays.
Despite Danielic prophecies on the increase of knowledge, we have left the secular world to dictate terms, even when we boast of unquestionable infrastructure. Like Biblical Moses, who was educated in all the learnings of the Egyptians, we can impart power in our people through internalised learning. Why do we fail to share our knowledge to members in a streamlined manner through unique opportunities presented by thousands of churches dotted across the length and breadth of our country? Hasn’t the declaration of our country as a Christian nation helped us to birth strategies?
The church mother bodies would do well to have a discourse on how their massive bone structures can help teach our people certain basics that lead to a degree qualification. It is not always that you need massive infrastructure to run university programmes. Yes, we could utilise not only abundant personnel but also church buildings as a strategy for initiating church run universities.
We could not only ride on accreditations with existing universities but insist on “post sermon weekend only” lesson deliveries within the confines of the church. Lecturers can either follow the students from established universities or qualified church members can be given the onerous task of teaching their fellow congregants. Weekend only lessons can be followed by online support systems.
Let’s imagine for once that my church of more than 20 years reserved two hours every Sunday for syndicated communication or entrepreneurial lectures – congregants would have graduated several times over. Faculties of art, philosophy, political science, communication and education can be syndicated for weekly deliveries aided by online learning back-ups. Churches can among others easily run communication, media, procurement, logistics, computing, accounting philosophy, psychology and education programmes. Although the list is not exhaustive such programs can be taught on a weekly basis without much fanfare, with churches acting as experiential podiums for enrolled students.
Even if my church is not a typical rural assembly, with a fair mix of professionals with academic poise, it is quite representative of most churches. As an example we could do a successful communication programme at degree level. Every time I seat next to one of the two honourable members of Parliament we have in our church; one from United Party for National Development and the other from the ruling PF, my mind keeps conjuring up ideas on how the duo can together shape the future of our country. Although countable, we have a good number of members with doctorates; our sanctuary like many in other towns seems to be bursting at the seams with professionals with myriad qualifications.
Utilising church faithful servants for a common good of educating congregants can go a long way in empowering our people with qualifications. Major denominations like Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Catholic, United and Reformed Churches in Zambia, can do well to take stock of their critical mass.
Recently, I was impressed when I visited one mega church in Lusaka – Bread of Life seems to have taken the bull by the horn. As I dropped a pastor for an Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia sponsored conference, someone handed me a flyer advertising a university within their vicinity. Our churches, especially those with financial muscle must fall in tandem and assist our country run universities within the four corners of their churches.
We could also take a leaf from those running stand-alone colleges and universities countrywide. I’m not talking about campus based training but rather asynchronous training probably supported by distance learning modules and weekly face to face sessions.
Yes churches have a primary role of meeting our spiritual and emotional needs but everyone would be the wiser if we brought in an academic connection. Even if most churches cannot have the required expertise to run a university, they can be compelled to act as accredited campuses with internal and external support from their centre and registered universities. It is high time churches appreciated their faithful congregants by adding education to their sermons.
We are living in a period where we need to leverage resources to better our people. Churches should modernize by becoming spiritual and academic supercentres. After all with a bit of infusions of technology like tablets and computers our churches can better be appreciated. We want congregants to smile with degrees after attending church for say five years.
The author is a social and political commentator.
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