Category Archives: Faith and culture

SHAHIDIHUB RESEARCH POLL REPORT ON CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR 2022

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On 10th December 2021, ShahidiHub Research & Consulting (under ShahidiHub Africa Ltd) launched a survey that sought to explore the views of Christians in Kenya on Christmas and New Year 2022. Similar to last year, this year’s Christmas still takes place within the context of the coronavirus pandemic; and the threats posed by the new Covid-19 variants. Although these findings reveal how these challenges and trends still influence how Christians in Kenya spend Christmas and observe church traditions, it also significantly conveys a hopeful future.

The online poll lasted for twelve days and was open to Christians from all church denominations. The collated findings below highlight critical views and trends on these two aspects. We have also, in some sections, compared the current findings with the 2020 end-year findings on Christmas and New Year.

We are grateful to all the participants for sharing their views, thus enabling ShahidiHub Research to produce these findings.

SHAHIDIHUB RESEARCH POLL RELEASE ON “THE STATE OF THE CHURCH IN KENYA AFTER PHASED REOPENING”

We are glad to release to you the poll results of the recent research titled, “The State of the Church in Kenya after the Phased Reopening of Churches.” The survey is a follow-up study of what had been done in May/June 2020.

We are most grateful for the invaluable feedback from those who participated. We are also grateful to those who willingly circulated the survey link to church leaders within their circles.

It is hoped that the data will in a big way contribute to the understanding of the body of Christ in Kenya. We hope that you will find this summary report below helpful.

[If you would like to write something based on the polls or want to share your experience on the Church and Covid-19, you are welcome to submit a 500-word article for consideration by our editorial team. We will be glad to feature your article on this platform (as a Guest Contributor) 

Find the download below.

A Checklist for the Phased Reopening of Churches in Kenya

On 6th July 2020, the president announced a phased reopening of worship places in Kenya. This comes about 100 days since a ban on religious meetings was first issued as a containment measure against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is worth noting that reopening of places of worship is coming at a time the infections curve is on a steady upward trajectory, with no signs of flattening.

As a follow-up to the presidential directive, the Interfaith Council formed to come up with procedures for reopening places of worship announced that churches can now put in place requisite measures and resume in-person Worship Services, from 14th July 2020. How prepared are churches to meet the recommended health guidelines? (Refer to Qn. 14 of the recent polls by ShahidiHub Research & Consulting).

For now, here is a checklist of basic measures that church leaders should put in before they reopen their worship areas:

Where to Begin:

  • Constitute a COVID-19 response team (Health committee), that will monitor/oversee the adherence to the health procedures.
  • Train your Ushers/Volunteer teams on these health measures and recommendations.

Ensure:

  • The physical distance of 1.5metres is observed throughout the Worship Service (You may want to encourage families to sit together). A visible label on seating arrangements.
  • Social distance during singing.
  • The maximum number of congregants does not exceed 100.
  • Children under 13 years of age, and persons above 58 years of age are not allowed to attend the in person-worship services (For now, use other strategies to reach out to them).
  • The duration for every worship service must not exceed 1 hour. (You may want to enlist lay leaders to help in various church ministries including preaching in the multiple worship services).
  • All congregants to properly wear masks throughout the worship service.
  • Have a local Covid-19 hotline number, to report any case of emergency.

Invest: Guidelines with Financial Implications

  • Thermo-guns for body temperature checks (those with 38 degree Celsius are not to be allowed in).
  • Protective gears (PPE’s) for those checking temperatures at entry points.
  • Provide alcohol-based sanitizers/ disinfectant at the entry points.
  • Increased handwashing stations, with soap and running water.
  • Regular cleaning and disinfection (or fumigation) of the church building and hallways
  • Invest in additional microphones- or ensure that all shared microphones are sanitized before being handed over to another person.
  • Face masks to donate (to some members who may not afford…)

Reconsiderations:

  • How Offering is collected- think of other options like Mpesa
  • Rethink how Baptism/ Holy Communion are done (disinfect hands…)
  • Introduce more worship services (but first find out if members will be comfortable with the suggested schedules)

Things to Discourage/Avoid

  • Handshaking. Giving high five… or customary ‘greet your neighbor…’
  • Socialization in church premises after a worship service.

Now that churches have been given the green light to self-regulate and resume in-person gathering from 19th July, church leaders should approach this matter with seriousness and with a sense of accountability. The church a life-giving community, hence leaders should strictly adhere to these measures for the church to continue to be a source of life, faith, love, and grace to God’s people.

Magnanimous Generosity: The Kenyan Church Loving its Neighbor!

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It is now over a year after the first case of COVID 19 was reported in Kenya. Since then, today’s official government reports indicate that over 6000 people have tested positive for the virus.

To curb the spread of this pandemic, the government of Kenya instituted physical (not social) distancing, the mandatory use of masks in public, the washing of hands, the establishment of quarantine facilities for those traveling from high-risk contact areas, the restriction of passenger travels from abroad, the suspension of all forms of social gathering including religious gathering, the implementation of a dusk to dawn curfew and the cessation of travels to and from Nairobi, among other measures. The net result of these measures has been the paralyzing of all non-essential services and travels.

While the government’s daily briefings focus on those infected with COVID 19, it does not reveal the number of Kenyans whose lives have been affected due to the pandemic by means other than direct infection. Reports indicate that in Nairobi alone, 84% of its 5 million residents have had their daily lives greatly impacted by COVID 19. More particularly, the 54% rate of unemployment is largely attributed to the pandemic. A report released on the 30th of June by TIFA Research shows that “among those who had been earning prior to the crisis, almost all (96%) report that they are now earning either ‘very little’ or ‘nothing’ relative to what they had been earning before”. This report also reveals that the economic interventions by the government to buffer Kenyans against financial hardship have not been felt by the ordinary citizen. With no direct and concrete social aid from the government, life has become more arduous for the poor majority.

In the midst of this, the church in Kenya has stood with their communities and continued to shine the love of Jesus Christ through various activities aimed at alleviating the pain of its neighbors. In a recent report by Shahidihub Africa, 56.67% of the churches across the 33 counties surveyed were involved in helping the poor with food; 42.86% had a targeted support of basic needs to the most vulnerable including the elderly and the people living with disabilities; 21.08% extended help with basic needs to those affected by natural calamities, while 17.56% offered similar support to Children Homes within their neighborhood.

The material support highlighted above is significant as the church itself has been financially hit by the crisis (For more on this, see Shahidihub Africa). Their own financial vulnerability has not, however, deterred them from generously tending to the vulnerability that surrounds them. The survey found that 11.71% paid rent for those who had lost their jobs. Of note is the fact that the survey does not show whether the beneficiaries were Christians or not. These churches have given materially, not because they are financially rich but because they love giving. Like the Macedonian churches in the midst of severe suffering and trials, their extreme poverty catalyzed rich generosity (2 Cor.8:1-5).

More importantly, it is precisely this love and generosity that validates their commitment to the gospel. Beside material support, churches have also enhanced spiritual services to foster spiritual growth, comfort, compassion, and reconciliation. Some of the noted activities include prayer support [82.20%], counseling (personal problems, conflicts, job losses) [64.40%] and the sharing of the gospel [57.61%]. The heightening of spiritual services and engagement during this pandemic indicates the Church’s hunger for God and its deep-rooted hope. Through prayer, support, counselling and sharing the gospel, individuals and families have had their lives considerably ameliorated in the face of what is proving to be a difficult time.

Lastly, through reaching out to those affected, the Kenyan Church has demonstrated the integrity of the gospel. It has embodied the idea that the gospel does not concern solely of the sharing of the word or meeting the needs of the people but dynamically is comprised of both. They have shown that their presence in a community is not simply to target individuals with a religious agenda but to extend love having fully considered the personhood of the individual. The depersonalization of a human being is irreconcilable with the revelatory and transformative encounter with the person of Jesus. Therefore, though church buildings remain closed and gathering for worship services remain suspended, the church according to this survey, is as active as it has ever been. As Deon K. Johnson, Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Missouri, so succinctly concludes:

“The work of the church is essential. The work of caring for the lonely, the marginalized, and the oppressed is essential. The work of speaking truth to power and seeking justice is essential. The work of being a loving, liberating, and life-giving presence in the world is essential. The work of welcoming the stranger, the refugee and the undocumented is essential. The work of reconciliation and healing and caring is essential. The church does not need to “open” because the church never “closed”. We who make up the Body of Christ, the church, love God and our neighbors and ourselves so much that we will stay away from our buildings until it is safe. We are the church.” (Bishop-elect. D. K. Johnson, June 2020).

Guest Contributor: Birgen K. M. Araap Cheruiyot;

Ph.D (Religious Studies) Student; McGill University, Montreal, QC.

Research Interests: Hebrew Bible; Old Testament Ethics; Immigration & Public Policy

 

Birgen K. M. Araap Cheruiyot

Exploring the Use of Whatsapp Cast Model to Reach Out to Children in Your Church

The recent poll results by ShahidiHub Africa showed that 64% of pastors/church leaders think that children of ages 0-11 years have not been given adequate attention through online and offline platforms during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

As a Sunday school teacher, this is worrisome because during this age bracket (0-11) children are open to learn about God, Bible, faith, and about the gospel.

While this can be attributed to the fact that children have no access to online platforms, children ministries can respond by using inexpensive mediums of sending gospel messages to children, through their parents. I propose the use of the WhatsApp cast model and SMS. Teachers can prepare and share gospel messages to parents and children’s caregivers and share it with their children.

WhatsApp cast is a recorded audio, word and visual illustrated files shared to users on WhatsApp platform and short messenger service (SMS). These services are easily accessible and inexpensive to use. It further allows teachers to send a word or audio file directly to their contacts. Each contact receives a personal message.

How to Start Whatsapp Cast

Know your audience in this case children ages 0-11 years– Segment children according to age and determine the content of your message that is age appropriate. Prepare age appropriate scripture verse activities that are simple, practical and fun. You can consider theme lessons for teaching a series of Bible lessons e.g. lesson series on God’s attributes or ten Commandments etc.

Organize your content– Make a list of what your cast will be about. This is important to keep you on track and help you avoid duplicating your topics.

Record and share your content– You have two options: record directly on WhatsApp or record the audio separately and then upload to WhatsApp.

Build your audience– Send the WhatsApp Cast, first to those in your contacts and then encourage the recipients to share the message with individuals in their contacts. Invite feedback to help you improve your content.  

Pray for the outpouring of the Spirit to guide you to choose your topics and execute the plan.

Given the widespread use of the Whatsapp, this alternative can greatly help churches reach out to the children at their homes. The Whatsapp feature is easy-to-use, accessible, and affordable to many, even during this period.

“…children ministries can respond by using inexpensive mediums of sending gospel messages to children. I propose the use of the WhatsApp cast model and SMS. Teachers can prepare and share gospel messages to parents and children’s caregivers and share it with their children.”

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:

Mercy K. Maina, M. A. Biblical Studies;

Part Time Lecturer: Kabarak University, Teaching Bible Courses. Service: Sunday School Teacher CITAM Karen;; Interest: Bridging Teaching Skill Gaps among  Sunday School Teachers

Rethinking the Way Church Ministries are Funded

Photocredit: BusinessDaily

Giving is a biblical requirement for believers in Christ. It is to be done generously and joyfully, out of a heart that is grateful to God. Biblically, it is a blessing to give than to receive.

It is through giving that the work of God is propagated; for instance, preaching of the gospel, and planting of churches. Also, it is through giving, God involves people in doing his work of spreading the gospel and transforming lives and communities. The generosity of God’s people enables churches to fulfill their financial obligations like paying salaries and meeting other administrative costs. Again, it is through giving that the needs of the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable are met. Most of the churches in Kenya rely on Sunday collections to fund these financial duties and operations. (How sustainable is this?)

A few months ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic was first reported in Kenya, Sunday gatherings were halted as a containment measure against the spread of the coronavirus. Many churches have been hit hard by this measure, Also, it is true that due to the ongoing uncertain situation, many church members have lost jobs, and others have had to take pay-cuts. As a result, many churches are experiencing a financial shock. The few available resources cannot address the increasing needs within and outside the church.

The outcome of a recently released poll by ShahidiHub Africa indicate that 37.53% of pastors/church leaders think that Giving is down at least 50%; also, 23.08% mentioned that Giving is down at least 25 %; 29.14% said that Giving is down below 10%; while 6.99% think that giving is close to the same. However small the percentage, it is interesting to note that 3.26% said that giving is up more than usual. The report further indicates that “Overall, 85% think that giving is below 50%. This significantly impairs the functioning of church activities.” When the church does not have financial resources, it makes it hard to sustain itself as an organization, and in reaching out to the needs in the surrounding society.

Evidently, the financial constraints occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, that has affected the majority of churches in Kenya, is an indicator that churches might need to relook at their revenue base with the intention of expanding it. Churches may want to consider financial sustainability models that do not wholly depend on Sunday collections to run church operations. Clearly, over-reliance on Sunday morning collections weakens the church’s ability to meet its financial obligations, and ministries to the poor and underprivileged in the society.

It is worth noting that some churches have invested in income-generating activities to boost their income base. This enables them to build reserves for church operations for unusual moments. My first proposition is that churches that have not invested in income-generating activities should consider this option in the post-COVID period. It is important to note that the management of these investments needs to be handled with care and prudence so that it does not overshadow the very purpose of the church. These projects should only facilitate the mission of the church.

Second, the church needs to be intentional in matters of holistic ministry. The breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic is a reminder of a need not just to preach a spiritual message to our congregations, but also help improve their economic status by equipping them with business skills for self-support. If we want to have churches that are financially stable, we will need to equip our members to be strong economically; a wealthy home will possibly mean a wealthier church. Covid-19 pandemic should thus cause leaders to rethink how their churches can remain financially stable to continue its mission even in uncertain times.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR:

Philemon K. Tanui,
Associate Pastor, A. I. C Wilson Airport (Nairobi)- Dip. Bible and Pastoral Studies (2007), B.Th (2011), MA Missions (2018), Ph.D Student (A.I.U)

Philemon K. Tanui

13 Ways You Can Improve Your Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Season

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According to the recently released poll by ShahidiHub Africa, “The top three groups that have not been given adequate and specific attention through the ongoing online or offline programs are:  Children (0-11Years)- (64.57%); Elderly (70+ years)- (61.07%), and, Teenage Group (12-19 Years)- (30.77%).” It is sad that children’s ministry tops the list, yet this group represents the future of the church. Together with the elderly group, children are seen as the most vulnerable during this Covid-19 pandemic period.

Below are some suggestions on how we can reach out to this important group in the body of Christ.

Creative Ways of Reaching Out, with the Gospel, to Children During Covid-19 Period

  1. Parents/guardians sensitization. In adult online sermons, remind the parents to of their God-given shepherding role to their children (Deut. 6:4-9).
  2. Conduct online interviews with professionals that help parents know how best to minister to their children in their homes.
  3. Create online children classes- Children are not small adults, they are children. We cannot rely on adult sermons for them. If a church has gone online with adult sermons, I believe it has capacity to do the same for the children.
  4. Create platforms to share ideas with parents on how to teach their children and be ready to answer their questions e.g. webinars where Children Pastors and teachers interact with parents.
  5. Developing online daily devotions (audio and/or soft copies) that are sent out to parents for printing or for children to watch.
  6. Parental participation – sing and watch the lessons with children, just as teacher does in a class setting. In discipleship a discipler walks with the disciple. Leaving the children to play the online lessons by themselves is not good enough if we want disciples out of our children during this season.
  7. Church partnerships – Pastors and church leaders in churches that are not technologically endowed should not shy away from asking for help from their neighboring churches. There should be a willingness to share God-given resources like the Early Church did in Acts 2. Our intention should be to reach out to the children with the gospel and not building empires. It is a time to share.
  8. Use other churches’ online content to evangelize children. Churches with online programs should allow other people to use the lessons for their children.
  9. Praying and checking on children and their families on phone by Children Pastors and teachers just as Paul would write letters to churches.
  10.  Children are relational, from time to time conduct zoom/Skype fellowships for them.
  11. Children love songs, encourage parents and guardians to teach children songs with messages of hope in Christ, memorize verses and give small gifts for motivation.
  12. Role modelling- Children emulate their parents and older people. If we follow Christ in our talk and actions through this season so shall they.
  13. There are numerous children radio and TV programs that edify children spiritually. Church leaders and pastors should research and vet them to recommend for their congregants.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu

Children Pastor,

PCEA Loresho Parish.

Caroline holds a Master of Divinity in Theological Studies from Africa International University, a Bachelor of Education (Science) and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She also holds a diploma in Holistic Nurturing of Children.

Caroline Gitimu Kiragu

In discipleship a discipler walks with the disciple. Leaving the children to play the online lessons by themselves is not good enough if we want disciples out of our children during this season.

“Children are not small adults, they are children. We cannot rely on adult sermons for them. If a church has gone online with adult sermons, I believe it has capacity to do the same for the children.”

Also from the Guest Author, Read Importance of Investing in Children’s Ministry During the Covid-19 Period

SHAHIDIHUB RESEARCH POLL RELEASE: The State of the Church in Kenya during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As ShahidiHub Research & Consulting, we are glad to release to you the poll results summary, which was also shared on 24th June 2020 to the respondents, and to Media outlets in Kenya. We are glad that we were able to feature voices of 429 pastors/Church Leaders from over 33 Counties in Kenya and from 161 Church Denominations in Kenya. The survey results release (“The State of Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic) comes about 100 days after the closure of places of worship as a containment measure against the spread of Covid-19.

We hope that the results will continue to enrich the conversations on doing ministry during these unusual moments and on the best way forward for the church in Kenya.

The Round One of the survey is now complete, soon we will launch the Round Two of the Survey. 

If you would like to write something based on the polls or want to share your experience on the Church and Covid-19, you are welcome to submit a 500-word article for consideration by our editorial team. We will be glad to feature your article (as a Guest Contributor) on this platform.

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ShahidiHub Research Team.

church and covid-19 survey in kenya: INvitation to pastors and church leaders

Dear Minister of the Gospel and Church Leaders,

We would like to kindly let you know that ShahidiHub Africa is conducting an interdenominational survey that targets pastors and church leaders in Kenya. The survey, that runs from 23rd May-19th June 2020, is titled, “The State of the Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” This survey seeks to find out how churches (through the leadership of pastors and church leaders) adjusted and continue to cope up with this unfolding pandemic situation, and how the future might look like for many churches. It is expected that the findings of this poll will enable pastors, church leaders and parachurch organizations to lead better amidst the pandemic, understand the current state of the church, and to foster an inter-denominational exchange of information and experience. Theologians might also find the findings useful in their engagement with ecclesial issues.

ShahidiHub Africa kindly invites you to participate in this poll; and, if possible, involve other pastors and church leaders within your network by sharing the link below. Once the survey is concluded, we shall share the data and detailed reports with priority given to those who participated.

The short online survey only takes about 7-10 minutes.

Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CHURCHnCovidinKenya

We appreciate your valuable feedback.

The Kind of People Who Inherit God’s Promises 

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PhotoCredit: Supercoloring

Joshua 14:6-15

God has laid out an inheritance before his people but not all will possess that possession. Many are called but few are chosen. What kind of people eventually qualify for God’s inheritance/blessings? This topic will be briefly handled within the context of ancient Israel inheriting the Promised Land; specifically looking at the life of Caleb. It is only Caleb and Joshua who left Egypt and transitioned to the Promised Land, the rest of his generation perished in the wilderness and a new generation had come up. What kinds of people “eat the best of the land” (Isa 1:19). What kind of people do we ought to be, for us to inherit God’s promises?

The kind of people who inherit the blessings of God /people to put on the watch list:

People who Firmly Trust the Word of God (v6)- Caleb remembers the word that the Lord spoke through his servant Moses forty years earlier. For all these years, Caleb hid God’s word in his heart, waiting for its revelation, like Simon patiently waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk. 2:25).

In his short speech, he repeatedly refers to the word that the Lord spoke. God’s promise for his life was never weakened by age or delay. Caleb longed for its fulfillment. He lived with hope for the great day of fulfillment of the word spoken by the Lord. They that hope/ trust upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed. Caleb treasured God’s word for over 40 years; it God’s word that made him stand out in his generation.

  • People who have Personal Convictions (v7)- Caleb and Joshua had a solid conviction based on God’s word. Caleb speaks of his conviction in this verse. Conviction is a firm believe/strong persuasion; it is the feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true. Caleb had a strong conviction on God’s promises. He is like Joseph (Gen. 39:9), and Daniel (Dan. 3:17,18), Paul (2 Tim. 1:12) in the Bible. You can only overcome the world, peer pressure and temptations by developing conviction based on the word of God. We need people who believe that they can be patient and get rewarded in the end; people who believe they can build wealth through hard work, and not gambling.
  • People who Wholeheartedly Follow God (v8)- Caleb was committed and consistent. When the ten spies brought reports that “made the hearts of the people melt with fear,” Caleb and Joshua chose to give an encouraging report based on the word of God.
  • Caleb wholly followed God. When the assembly of God’s people feared to walk according to God’s plan, Caleb stood firm. He followed God despite opposition. He endured threats, insults, and prejudices. In fact, he was almost stoned by the people (Num 14:10). It is possible to follow God but not wholeheartedly. King Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but not wholeheartedly, 2 Chronicles 25:2.

What does to “wholly follow God” mean?

  • Submissive to the will of the Lord. He kept his heart pure.
  • Resting upon the word of God as clear and authoritative in matters of belief and practice.
  • Laying hold of the promises of God as certain.

Caleb followed God with determination. Clearly, that was not easy; especially when the people were complaining against their leaders and the people turning to idolatry in Mt. Sinai.

As a result of wholeheartedly following God, he was rewarded. Hebron, therefore, became an inheritance for Caleb. God rewards his faithful followers and honors those who honor him. He rewards obedience.

People who are courageous and strong- (v10-15)

In verse 2, Caleb demands to be given the inheritance according to the promise. He claims still able to dislodge the Anakites in their large and fortified cities. He is still able to task. He does not request the conquered regions, but a piece of the fight will be alright with him. He requested not the easy deal but the harder one! Today, we need people who know and have the courage to claim their possessions.

Be courageous to hold on to your convictions. Be courageous to swim upstream in the contemporary world. Be courageous to stand by the truth even when you are the minority.

Caleb was a man of courage. It is him who led the opposition against the ten (bad news) reporters. When the people of Israel wanted to pack and go back to Egypt, Caleb and Joshua had a rough time reminding them of God’s promises. Courage is not being insensitive/unaware of pending dangers. It is not the absence of fear, rather a deliberate strength and determination to move forward no matter what.

Caleb braved himself out when others proved to be traitors. This courage sprang from the faith he had in God. God wants Joshua to be strong and courageous to be able to lead the people into the Promised Land, Joshua 1:6. Joshua’s strength and courage came from meditating on the word of God, believing its promises, and obeying its precepts. This was the counsel Moses had given to all the people (Deut.11:1-9).

It is never enough to have convictions in life; it should be coupled with courage.

We need the courage to confess Christ in every place we go, and in every situation we find ourselves. Doing God’s will requires courage.

Courage has been summed up in the following words: “I must obey God’’

Our greatest enemy today is cowardice, life’s battle needs courageous people. Always be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. The kingdom of God as we know shall be taken over by the violent; it is for those who take it by force.

In Conclusion, Ephesians 1, we are instructed that we have an inheritance in God; ensure you are positioned to inherit this promise. The first inheritance is salvation.