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.
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)
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.
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).
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…)
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.
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).
The recently released poll report by the ShahidiHub Research & Consulting (under ShahidiHub Africa Ltd) shows various ways in which the church has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It reveals how pastors have continued their connectedness with their members after the ban on religious gathering, as a health measure against the spread of Covid-19.
The report shows pastors/church leaders who did not transition to online platforms, followed up on their members through WhatsApp (69.29%); Phone Calls (58.05%), and SMS (50.56%). However, 13.11% expressed that it has been hard to follow up on their church members during this period.
Other ways in which pastors and other church leaders have reached out to their members include cautious home visits; provision of hard copies of Bible study/ family devotional materials to members; follow-up through the leaders of life/Cell-group (home churches), and availing to members the preaching/sermon texts with guided questions.
The survey further found out that the church has continued to spread of the good news during this period. The outstanding activities to the society during this extraordinary period include: Prayer Support [82.20%]; Counseling (personal problems, conflicts, job losses)- [64.40%]; Reaching out with the Good News [57.61%]; Helping the poor with food stuff [56.67%]; Pastoral presence during bereavement process and burials [55.50%]; Supporting the vulnerable (Elderly, persons living with disabilities) with basic needs [42.86%]; Helping deal with matters of domestic violence [34.19%]; Helping those affected by natural calamities with basic needs [21.08%]; Supporting Children Homes with basic needs [17.56%]; and, Paying Rent for those who’ve lost jobs [11.71%].
Having these statistics in mind, it is evident that pastoral care has been a necessary and urgent need during this Covid-19 season. The closure of churches did not result in the lessening of pastoral activities. In fact, it has emerged that pastors and ministry leaders have become busier during this partial lockdown period. The question then is, with the current overwhelming pastoral ministry needs, how can the church effectively dispense its pastoral duties to its members? My proposition is that laity training/equipping, and empowerment are necessary for effective pastoral ministry and discipleship.
The church needs to cultivate the laity’s ability to theologize in order to mitigate some of the pastoral challenges currently being experienced. Equipped and empowered laity will be beneficial for several reasons. First, empowered laity will compensate for the strained pastor-congregation ratio. Many churches in Kenya (especially in rural areas) experience this ratio mismatch of pastors and congregations. These churches do not have enough pastors to provide leadership and shepherding to every group in the church. In this widespread scenario, the few available pastors are already strained and overstretched.
Therefore, there is a need to empower the laity to lead, teach, and support other church roles and responsibilities. It is lamentable that some churches are not utilizing some of the resource persons in their congregation. If Apostle Paul’s analogy of the body is correctly applied, various gifts in a congregation will be fanned into flame and have a vibrant body of Christ. Overreliance on the clergy overburdens them thereby making them ineffective in the ministry. Such ministry ineffectiveness produces milk-dependent and spiritually immature Christians.
Second, empowering the laity is not only for their personal good but also for the good of their circle of friends. It should be appreciated that in Africa generally and Kenya in this case, most people get their social support from friends and family members. Seeking professional counselling has not yet found wide societal acceptance in our context. Since most counselling happens at the peer and family level, there is need to train and empower the laity in order to enhance effective social support. Their training should encompass basics of counselling.
Third, laity empowerment will strengthen believers’ spiritual growth. Emphatically, the Great Commission mandate is about making disciples. Biblical teaching is a necessity for effective discipleship making. The COVID-19 situation has pointed out the weakness of pulpit and clergy-centered ministry. Believers should be empowered to personally gain their spiritual muscles and growth from the mines of the scripture, and not over-rely on Sunday-to-Sunday spoon-feeding. However, this does not undermine the place of the pulpit ministry. If properly utilized, the pulpit offers a strategic platform for empowering the laity and promoting the priesthood of all believers.
Fourth, by training/equipping and empowering the laity, the church will be implementing the biblical principle of delegation. It took Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, for Moses to make sense of the delegation principle. Moses kept doing ministry from morning till evening to the detriment of his self. Jethro advised, “…what you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:17,18 NIV). Apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy and Titus also reinforces the place of delegation in church administration (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-10, Titus 1:5). Therefore, equipping and empowering the laity will not only ease and make pastoral work effective but also delightful.
Name: Leonard Too
Education Qualification: Bachelor of Education (BED-UON)-2014; MDIV-BS (AIU)-2018; PhD Biblical Studies Student (Africa International University).
“…it is evident that pastoral care has been a necessary and urgent need during this Covid-19 season. The closure of churches did not result in the lessening of pastoral activities. In fact, it has emerged that pastors and ministry leaders have become busier during this partial lockdown period.”
“It is lamentable that some churches are not utilizing some of the resource persons in their congregation. If Apostle Paul’s analogy of the body is correctly applied, various gifts in a congregation will be fanned into flame and have a vibrant body of Christ.”
“The COVID-19 situation has pointed out the weakness of pulpit and clergy-centered ministry. Believers should be empowered to personally gain their spiritual muscles and growth from the mines of the scripture, and not over-rely on Sunday-to-Sunday spoon-feeding.”
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.”
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
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.
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)
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
Parents/guardians sensitization. In adult online sermons, remind the parents to of their God-given shepherding role to their children (Deut. 6:4-9).
Conduct online interviews with professionals that help parents know how best to minister to their children in their homes.
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.
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.
Developing online daily devotions (audio and/or soft copies) that are sent out to parents for printing or for children to watch.
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.
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.
Use other churches’ online content to evangelize children. Churches with online programs should allow other people to use the lessons for their children.
Praying and checking on children and their families on phone by Children Pastors and teachers just as Paul would write letters to churches.
Children are relational, from time to time conduct zoom/Skype fellowships for them.
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.
Role modelling- Children emulate their parents and older people. If we follow Christ in our talk and actions through this season so shall they.
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.
Caroline Gitimu Kiragu
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.
“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.”
According to the recently released poll by ShahidiHubAfrica on, “The State of the Church in Kenya During the Covid-19 Pandemic,”
“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 the Children’s ministry tops the list, yet this group represents the future of the church.
Spiritual formation is of great essence for every believer, including children. But how can the church of Christ be spiritually formed to transform the world amid crisis, suffering, evil, and uncertainties? To be even more specific, how can the church sustain children’s spiritual formation in such times and not neglect it as it is often the case even during ‘normal’ times.
Bill Hybels, a renowned leader’s trainer said “The local church is the hope of the world” The church, which is the community of believers, has a big role to play in the restoration and transformation of children who will in turn transform the world now and in the future. The family unit plays a key role in promoting this local church function.
In Genesis 18:19, God gives the reason why he had chosen Abraham; “…so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” We later see this same principle repeated in Deut. 6. The primary responsibility of discipling children lies with their parents & guardians; “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up…” (Deut. 6:6-7).
It is within our home environment – the smallest church unit! As such, this responsibility is not to be delegated to other platforms no matter how wonderful they may be, these are there to assist and guide us in what we are called to do – to disciple our children.
It is time to go back to the basics, to strengthen the family altar, and the church will grow despite the shake ups of not meeting together. He has promised!
It is highly likely that upon resumption of normal church gatherings after the Covid-19 curve flattens, a number of parents will still be hesitant to take their children to church for a period of time thus the need to think of creative ways of ministering to the children during this season and beyond. There is a need for church leaders and ministers to:
Realize the great need for systematic teaching of the word of God to children.
Find out approaches and methods of teaching children in the new normal.
See how we can improve the existing delivery of the gospel to the children.
The importance of ministering to children during this period is underscored by the fact that children have questions about God cannot be overlooked. The home is the place and environment where children should hear the word of God being taught and modelled.
It is highly likely that upon resumption of normal church gatherings, after the Covid-19 curve flattens, a number of parents will still be hesitant to take their children to church for a period of time thus the need to think of creative ways of ministering to the children during this season and beyond.
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.