“Locking Down ISMT!”

Online Train the Trainer session

By Jeanette Windle with Mrs. Pat Govender

Pat Govender, BCM Africa director for children’s ministry training, was on faculty at the Global Children’s Forum Leadership Experience training course when her nation of South Africa went on COVID-19 lockdown mid-March 2020. The following week was filled with adventures of cancelled flights and delegates trying to get back to their home countries. Pat made it home to East London, South Africa, on March 21st, only to find herself in long-term quarantine. With ministry events canceled, she began praying for God’s leading as to the future.

Then Pat received a phone call from Kemi, a lawyer from Abuja, Nigeria, who is passionate about helping children walk with Jesus. She had contacted BCM Canada for help with children’s ministry, who in turn put Kemi in contact with Pat. To connect better, Pat downloaded what was to her a new app called Zoom. As Pat gave Kemi advice about Bible club ministry, she realized Zoom would be the perfect platform to teach children’s ministry leadership training events that had been cancelled due to quarantine.

Pat contacted Esther from Tanzania and Rachel from Kenya, both of whom had been waiting for an ISMT training in their area. Soon, Enoch from Ghana, Uche from Nigeria, Alice from Benin, Ben from Australia, and Sharne from South Africa were added to the group, all experienced children’s ministry leaders in their hometowns and countries. With Zoom as a platform, Pat began teaching through the core sessions of ISMT (In Step with the Master Teacher) with the group, which chose the quarantine-appropriate name of “Locking Down ISMT”!

This led to additional online satellite sessions of ISMT with ISMT graduates in South Africa who’d already finished core training, then videoing sessions to put online for ministry leaders whose internet connection didn’t allow for Zoom interaction, including in Rwanda and other countries.

Meanwhile, the original group finished the core ISMT training and asked for the more advanced Train The Trainer (TTT), which prepares children’s ministry leaders to become ISMT trainers within their own region and country.  That group has now graduated, and a second group is taking the online TTT training. What is exciting is that this online training has now provided new ISMT trainers all over Africa, including countries not yet reached with ISMT training such as Benin, Ghana, Tanzania, and even Australia.

Pat Govender teaching ISMT online

Zoom has also allowed Pat to interact with already existing Lead Trainers from Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and South Sudan to plan for the future after quarantine. So many requests are pouring in for online training that plans are to make this a permanent resource. With Zoom and other online platforms, regional Lead Trainers can work interactively with a small group of ISMT students in their area and follow up with them long-term. Also planned are to create online videos for each core and satellite teaching session.

One current challenge for online training is that many countries in the region have difficulties with internet connections and consistent electricity. Finding a time that works for every participant in different time zones  and with varying schedules is also not easy. On the flip side, developing strong relationships with new trainers and being able to continue supporting and encouraging each other with ongoing communication is a great advantage.

One new online TTT graduate shared: “A real strength was that we could reach and train children’s workers across many nations simultaneously. In our class, for example, people were connecting in from three continents! I also liked the flexible delivery. We each managed to find a time to attend that suited us in our different nations, despite living in very different time-zones (some people attended in the “evening” while some attended in the “morning.”) And it was far easier to catch-up if you missed a session than with an in-person training.”

Another enthused over the advantages of online training: “Along with broadening the ability of using modern technology, it saves time and costs and allows me to study while I’m working. It also builds relationships in a very short time with people from different nations.”

“I am so impressed,” said a third TTT graduate, “that at a time when activities in the world seem to be at a standstill, God has used the Zoom medium to still ensure knowledge is gained and that his work continues. I am confident this medium will give a lot of people the opportunity to increase their knowledge as location is no longer a barrier.

What began as a provisional solution to a short-term situation has now become a powerful, effective training tool Pat Govender and other BCM leadership trainers plan to continue developing long after lockdown is over!

Online Train the Trainer graduation

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