According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are “5 million pastors/priests in all Christian traditions worldwide (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, and Independents, including bi-vocational).”1 They further estimate that “5% (250,000) are likely to have formal theological training (undergraduate Bible degrees or Master’s degrees)”. This means that of the estimated 2.2 million evangelical, pastoral leaders globally (some estimates put this figure as high as 3.4 million), only 5% have received formal training (i.e., a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree).” Furthermore, the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX), has as its Mission, “to help start at least five million multiplying biblical churches and faith communities”2, each of which will need a pastor. These are staggering statistics, which for me, confirm that the single biggest crisis in the global church is poorly trained or untrained pastors and Christian leaders. Add to that the phenomenon that most Christians simply do not ever get involved in any form of ministry, and the problem is compounded.
Now it would be wrong to conclude that the 95% are receiving no training at all, because there are some organisations which are doing a sterling job in this area, but the curriculum content, length and levels of training vary greatly. Until now, there has been no international standard for non-formal or informal training of Christians for ministry.
However, a new initiative may supply the answer. It is called Re-Forma (www.re-forma.global), a new movement that responds to this crisis by fostering, enhancing and multiplying sound biblical training for ministry for the global church. It exists for the following reasons:
- To help and encourage existing global and local training programs that are not part of formal theological education, by providing a list of outcomes designed to cover all the tools and competencies one needs for
- To provide the same biblical ministry training outcomes, which could be used for new believers and new churches.
- To enhance effectiveness, reach, and networking among providers.
Re-Forma is responding to the crisis of insufficiently trained church leadership. Founded on outcome- and impact-based assessment, Re-Forma provides recognised benchmarks for informal and nonformal biblically-based ministry through 2 distinctive programs:
A. Guidelines for evaluating the over 40000 training programmes for ministry competency; and
B. Guidelines for start-up organisations wanting to train many thousands of church leaders annually, to narrow the gap.
Important: Re-Forma does not tell ministry organisations what to do or how to do it, but rather provides resources to assist them in achieving the goals they have formulated. It does not focus its work on traditional, formal theological education, but rather on non-formal/informal leadership formation needs which exist at all levels, from grass-roots upwards. The outcomes are extremely simple and can be demonstrated by students at any level, including those who only have a primary school education.
The world desperately needs Christian leaders who know the Scripture and can effectively serve the church. For these servants, Re-Forma awards a globally recognised Certificate of Biblical Training for Ministry, underwritten by the World Evangelical Alliance. The outcomes are intentionally designed to reach people who may never have access to formal programmes, but covers the essential competencies that Christians need in order to minister effectively. The outcomes, which are made available free of charge, are available at re-forma.global/outcomes.
Perhaps the easiest way to explain this system is to consider the driver’s license test, which we all must take at some point. The outcome might read, “Successfully demonstrate the ability to drive a car.” The examiner has a number of assessment criteria which the person being tested must meet, but none of them relate to who taught him/her to drive. Whether one was taught at a driving school or whether one’s father or cousin or anyone else was the teacher, is not a determining factor. One’s level of education is also not a factor. The key issue is, can you demonstrate the outcome? If you can, you will receive your license. It is the same with Re-Forma; if students successfully demonstrate the required outcomes, regardless of how they were taught, they will be eligible for the Re-Forma Certificate of Biblical Training for Ministry, which is underwritten by the World Evangelical Alliance. In developing countries there is a fee of $5 per student and in the rest of the world $10 per student for the Certificate.
Existing providers, whose students have successfully demonstrated the outcomes in the Re-Forma program, may automatically receive the Certificate, whilst those who teach only some of the Re-Forma outcomes, may supplement their program with the balance of what is required. These outcomes are also ideal for providers who have no program at all, as well as for churches which want to train their members for various forms of ministry. It can be taught in a classroom, or online or in mixed mode format and can easily meet the needs of providers in very rural communities who have few (or no) resources. The curriculum is simple, yet comprehensive.
Naturally in such a system, maintaining a uniform, global standard is paramount. To do so, Re-Forma uses an Assessment Sheet which places great emphasis on the facilitator assessing each student very thoroughly and signing off on each. These sheets are then emailed to the Project Director. In addition, Re-Forma will conduct regular Quality Assurance institutes in various places around the world. At these events, those who teach and assess the outcomes, whether they be pastors, teachers, etc., will be given specific training, designed to improve their methodologies. The contact details of enrolled groups are listed on the website so that those who wish to interact with them and share successful ideas may do so. This should also lead to improved standards.
To further assist the facilitators, on its website Re-Forma has listed useful links for each outcome, as well as a leading question they could ask as part of the teaching process. Here is an example:
Outcome: Effectively share the gospel with family, friends and strangers.
Suggested question: What would you see as the one or two most important obstacles in your church and your culture, to sharing the gospel in private and in public? Then explain, how you would correct those who do not witness because of these obstacles.
Outcomes, links and suggested questions will be refined, and, if necessary, changed. The feedback received from students and facilitators will play a vital role in this regard.
A number of groups in Africa have already enrolled and I fully expect that many more will join.
We need urgently to make a significant dent in the huge shortage of Christians trained for ministry in the global church, especially in Africa. I believe by teaching these outcomes, this goal can be accomplished. I trust that tens of thousands will complete this program and thereby be equipped to minister effectively.
For more information go to re-forma.global.
Dr Reuben van Rensburg is the Project Director of Re-Forma and the previous President of the South African Theological Seminary (SATS). His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.