“The most rewarding aspect of operating a local learning site is when you are discussing a specific topic from Scripture, and the lightbulb goes on for the student. In several cases, we at Mukhanyo’s Welkom learning site, had students share in class that they now realise that their churches and teaching need to change to conform to the Word of God.”
“I believe that this is the greatest aspect of local learning sites' ministry,” says Rev Louis O’Tool, a tutor at the Welkom learning site in the Free State province. He is one of Mukhanyo’s 165 tutors who serve in sites across South Africa and beyond.
Today the site offers the Focus programme as well as both Higher Certificates,
The Welkom site was established in 2015 with an initial group of six students who completed the accredited Diploma in Theology. Since then, seven more students have achieved one of the Higher Certificates there. The site provides the Focus programme in addition to both Higher Certificates, one on church ministry and one on Bible teaching. Currently, there are 20 active students enrolled at the Welkom site.
The group has had the privilege to assist with the rollout of the Bachelor's degree in theology (BTh) at local learning sites. Reverend Louis shared that they have five BTh students enrolled, and are in the process of completing their third module.
“Our group meets weekly, and we discuss topics related to the module at hand, address any student questions and dig more deeply into the module materials. Many of our students have come from other towns in the region. The furthest travel from Wesselsbron, about 45 minutes away.”
“Our students range from mid-60s to just out of matric. All of our students are engaged in church leadership on some level, while 14 are serving as pastors of their local congregation. Two of our students, who are just out of matric, hope to enter pastoral ministry upon graduation.”
“We’ve had several students beginning their studies but not able to complete them. Some have stopped due to financial constraints, moving to another community, or facing other challenges.”
“By far our most significant marketing is word-of-mouth, where students recommend our group to other church leaders whom they know could benefit. Most minister in township churches. Many of the students have other occupations as well since they are not receiving a full-time salary for their pastoral work.”
“The advantage of the Mukhanyo Local Learning programmes is that it brings sound theological education to those who otherwise have no access to it. While our region of the Free State is majority Christian, you will find that most church leaders have no understanding of basic doctrines. When challenged as to why certain practices exist in their churches, they respond that it comes from what they’ve learned or seen, without having any theological or biblical basis.”
Rev Louis explains that “since many of these pastors are married with children, and have other occupations as well, they would never be able to attend a traditional campus-based seminary. Local learning sites allow Mukhanyo to bring these educational resources to men and women who are thirsting for deeper knowledge.”