In November 2023, APF launched an exciting partnership with Spurgeon’s College to offer APF partners and eVitabu users a unique opportunity to enrol for the Equipped for Digital Ministry course (EfDM). Dave Stedman explains what the course involves and why it is so important.
Ownership of a smartphone is now an essential prerequisite for candidates applying to study at many universities, seminaries and Bible schools in Africa. Digital devices are no longer ‘luxury’ items but essential tools for business, banking, entertainment, travel and study.
With mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa set to reach 685 million by next year, the need for training in the use of digital tools for ministry and theological reflection about the relationship between human beings, technology and God are as urgent in Africa as in any other part of the world.
EfDM is a six-module online course. Students can work at their own pace, and the completed course leads to a college certificate. Learning and assessment requires students to engage at both an academic and vocational level with the following modules:
- Ministry in a Digital Culture
- Digital Church: Communications
- Media Streams
- Inclusion and Ethics
- Digital Church in Practice
- Digital Futures
Over the past two years, as a result of studying for a Masters in Digital Theology at Spurgeon’s College, I now find myself inhabiting a niche area of theological expertise in east Africa with many invitations to open up the subject of digital theology in both formal and non-formal training environments. I’ve delivered numerous Digital Theology Taster Seminars and developed an introduction workshop called The Smart Pastor.
Feedback from these workshops has shown an obvious hunger for more in depth teaching and capacity building in both practical and theoretical aspects of ministry in the digital age. As a result of exposure to The Smart Pastor, there is even a Christian university in Uganda which has committed to introduce digital theology as a core component of its ministry training and is asking for support in developing its curriculum and delivery.
Over the course of this year, through conversations with Spurgeon’s College Principal, Rev Prof Philip McCormack, the possibility of offering EfDM to African clergy began to take shape. Philip recently returned from a visit to Moyo in northern Uganda where he saw first-hand the appetite for learning and the need for capacity building of Baptist pastors from South Sudan.
Spurgeon’s College has generously reduced the price of EfDM for APF partners. Philip sees this as a great opportunity for the college to expand its influence as global
One of the early applicants, Revd Shadrack Koma, a regional overseer in the Africa Inland Church in Kenya, is ambitious and excited about the course and how it will enable his ministry. He writes, ‘[EfDM] will help me to reach out to millions of unreached people in the digital world. By leveraging technology, especially social media and other digital platforms. I look forward to upgrading my ministry digitally.’
Pastor Daniel Masiga from Uganda, who chairs the Christian Leaders Fellowship in Mogadishu, Somalia, is similarly enthusiastic. ‘For me being equipped for digital ministry is an opportunity to be better positioned and better equipped in the cause of advancing the gospel of Christ using technology’ he explains. ‘Technology has a way of magnifying human abilities and learning to use it efficiently is an opportunity I wouldn’t love to miss. Especially knowing that this education is coming from a college and a team of educators such as Spurgeon’s College. In a nutshell, I hope to achieve greater effectiveness and efficiency in digital communication so as to reach people and places I may never be able to physically reach.’
At the time of writing, just one week after applications opened, twenty-three APF partners have already enrolled (although only one has paid). Despite EfDM being offered at a significantly reduced cost to APF partners, £305 remains a lot of money for the average African pastor. For many it is out of reach.
We believe it is important that applicants take financial responsibility for their studies so a proportion of the cost will always be met by the student, but we also appeal to our supporters to consider sponsorship so we can fast-track some of those who enrol but will struggle to ‘mobilise the funds’. As one of my African friends told me just last week, ‘the flower is there, the bees wish to come, and when they do they will go and make honey’.
The EfDM Africa partnership is unique and undoubtedly strategic. Please pray for those that aspire to learn to be enabled to access the training: May they fulfil their personal potential and strengthen the church, practically and spiritually, in-person and online, wherever God has placed them.