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The Evolution Of UCCSA Missional Policy In Botswana

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Introduction

For this chapter, the study will discuss the successes or strengths of the missional policy. These are what has been realised or archived which was planned at the inception of the missional policy. The study will be focusing on the progress reports as presented from 2015 Synod Conference to 2018 Synod Conference. Reports of the Mission Council, Administrative Reports and minutes of the conferences were used to study the strengths or the successes of the policy. This chapter will not discuss the success in a structural order as presented by the strategic plan of the missional policy, but references to sections of the missional policy will be highlighted.

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UCCSA Golden Jubilee Celebrations

One of the major projects during the lifespan of this missional policy, was preparations for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations. A task force was formed in 2014 at the Gantsi Synod Conference, to spearhead the celebration of the existence of the UCCSA in Botswana (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018a: 1). For this UCCSA in Botswana, this major event became milestone through which the church will introspect effectively. It was through the participation of all regions and local churches, that once again, assured the church that it still has a major role in the mission of God towards the people of Botswana. Synod of Botswana, was chosen by the UCCSA as a place where the launching of the celebrations will take place. This event was held in Francistown in 2016, with one year to go before the golden jubilee celebrations (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018a: 1). The theme for the Botswana Synod was Ebenezer: With God everything is possible (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018a). Celebrations have a way of bring people together. It has a way of bridging the divides, and healing the tensions. This was evident during the period leading towards the major event. The church was united, with one common goal. Despite challenges, the celebrations injected some much needed energy to the entire church. Evangelical revivals were witnessed across the country, something that the UCCSA is not commonly know for. Properties, more especially church buildings, that have been negleted for some time, were renovated to prepare for celebrations. Those who have participated in the life of the church across the country were honored both at their local church celebrations, regional celebrations and the major national celebration. Despite financial challenges, the following projects were achieved (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018a): A Missionary history – UCCSA Botswana 1967 – 2017 was compiled in a form of a book, and the time of this research, was awaiting publication due to financial constraints.

The Melodical Evolution – UCCSA Botswana

  • Some musical melodious Anthems were developed by the Music Ministry
  • Ground work on our old and new times music was also done. A CD has been recorded and was on sale during the celebrations. Golden Jubilee Merchandise.
  • The utilised the celebrations as an opportunity to raise funds through the sale of merchandise and it was one of the very successful projects of the celebrations. At times production could not meet the demand. Golden Jubilee Music Festival
  • For the first time in the history of UCCSA in Botswana, a music festival involving the Synod Mass Choir (made up of choristers from local churches across the country), youth groups and international artists from Zimbabwe and South Africa was held to wrap up the celebrations. This event was held at the Francistown stadium and members of the church brazed the cold night to come and witness. Since then, this celebration is being talked about a lot. We have since witnessed more local churches even embracing the use of musical instruments in their churches, something that has always brought tensions in some churches(Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018b).

Growth of “Praise and Worship” Groups

During this study, the researcher found that, for a period leading to the conception of the missional policy in 2014, it was very difficult for young people, who had intentions to start praise and worship teams in their churches, to do so. Only a few local churches were seen to have embraced such a development. Although initially it was agreed that traditional Church Choirs’ purpose in church was to lead in praise and worship, and that where church choirs and praise and worship teams existed, the situation should be normalised (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2014c: 3), it was later realised that instead, coexistence and team work be encouraged since both played a pivotal role in the music of the church. This has encouraged more young people in local churches to be engaged in the music ministry, with the freedom of introducing other gospel music forms rather than singing only the traditional hymns. In such local churches, this study through observation, found that more young people attend services than in the local churches where only liturgical traditional hymns are sung. Music, as a very important aspect of the church service (van der Merwe, Grobler, Strasheim & Orton, 2013: 2), “can be used as a basis for young adults to experience the church service and arguably also influence the credibility of the message delivered in the service”. The researchers here continue to argue that “more importantly, the type of music played in a religious service is most likely to influence the preferred attendance of the services of a specific church denomination” (van der Merwe et al. , 2013: 2). This study agrees with this conclusion. All the six regions now have active praise and worship teams comprised of members from youth groups and young adults ministry, as witnessed through their active participation during their national conferences, and the Synod Conference.

Implementation of Coordinated Calendar of Activities and Projects

Since the Selibe Phikwe Synod Conference in 2011, the researcher noted that there has been a general concern that at the beginning of the year there are just too many business (reporting) activities in church and there is not time for fellowship activities and to prepare for the synod conference (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2014c: 3). The Mission council was tasked in the 2014 synod conference to work on a calendar of events. This study found out that this was implemented and has since brought cohesion amongst leaders of various ministries in preparation for various activities. Since this step was taken, the Synod Mission Council has improved in terms of working as one team for all ministries. One of the results of this, is the conception of a project to build a church and ablution block in Sekoma Village (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018b: 4). At the time of this study, the ablution block has been completed and construction of the church has begun. The research had an opportunity to attend a meeting led by the current Synod Mission Council Convenor and The Synod Mission Secretary, in which the contract with the Building Company was signed. This meeting was held at the site of the project.

Mission Audit (Operation Boela Gae)

The Mission Audit which was termed Operation Boela Gae was carried in two regions being Matsha and Bojanala Regions. This study found that these two regions have been much of the discussions in meetings and conferences regarding how marginalised they are (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2015: 1). According to the report, Mission Audit for two regions was successful and local churches were prepared to receive the Audit Team. The Audit covered a total of 29 villages (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2015: 1). The following is what the Audit discovered:

  • Congregations are not numerically growing/ Old congregations
  • Spiritual Growth is compromised
  • The structure of the church is not respected
  • People take the church as a social club more than being the house of God and they take themselves as volunteers more than being called by God to serve as stewards in the house of God.
  • The congregations are not active participators in the mission of God
  • No missional projects nor financial projects
  • Unfinished projects
  • Most churches have not residences for ministers
  • Some churches still worship under trees
  • No Sunday schools and youth in most of the congregations
  • Most members where there are not ministers no longer attend church
  • Where there are no ministers some members have joined other churches

During this audit, every evening there was a revival service and bible study in the church being audited. It was during these service where the audit continue to make the following findings(Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2015a):

  • There are no Bible studies carried out in church
  • Lack of knowledge in Evangelism and follow ups for new converts
  • Worship services are not exciting hence young people do not come
  • The total number of members in the two regions is 2175, spread across 29 local churches and outstations.

This study concludes that this mission audit exercise by the UCCSA in Botswana was a very important step in finding out the weaknesses and strengths of the church as an active participator in the mission of God across the two named regions. The other conclusion is that, although not stated anywhere in the reports, the audit may have influenced certain decisions of the church to specifically pay special attention to these regions through implementation of projects, example being the Sekoma project mentioned in section 3. 4 of this study.

Conversion of Ministries Business Conferences to Fellowship Educational Conventions

During the 2016 Synod Conference, the mission council raised concerns regarding the number of business conferences the church has every year, versus the benefits thereof. In the 2018 report (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018b: 4), it is stated that, the nature of ministries conferences has evolved from what was used to. The report continues to highlight that the original Conference Planning Meetings, which come a month before the conference, have been upgraded and empowered to make decisions and these are now called Business Meetings or Consultations where only regional delegates attend. This is where reports are presented and resolutions made. The main conferences have been converted into conventions, where everyone is welcome and the focus is on Christian Education through workshops, bible studies and seminars, influenced by the object of such a ministry as depicted in the Members Handbook (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2014b: 7-13). Such a development has now created a space for activities that will develop members of the church to be more effective and efficient as participators in the missio Dei.

Inaugural Mission Council Conference

On the 4th of March 2017,, the Synod Mission Council held its first Mission Council Conference at Trinity Congregational Church. This well attended conference, with representation from all regions, all ministries and units, School of Chaplains, Theological Commission, deliberated on issues relating to the life of our church from the missional perspective. The church, through this conference, had an opportunity to introspect and make some meaningful and much need recommendations to the 2017 Synod Conference through the mission council report (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2017a).

Website and Social Media Presence

As part of the strategic plan, the 2017 Mission Council conference resolved that the website should be made must be online before the 2017 Synod conference, containing links for all churches so that it becomes easy to access churches in Botswana. The strategic plan indicates that the UCCSA in Botswana in in a quest to avail many of its documents and educational resources through the internet. This study found out that although some that were planned have not been realised yet, the church however has since developed a website and also has an official Facebook page and a Facebook group where members of the church can interact. On top of this various local churches and ministries continue to make their own pages on social media platforms. At the time of the study the Facebook page of the synod had over 5000 followers, and when going through its message centre with the administrator, it appears to be busy on daily basis engaging with members of the church across the country. The study also found out that the UCCSA in Botswana has registered with mobile networks, a SMS systems, through which important announcements to member of the church are made. This has improved the communication within the church (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2017a)

Young Adult Ministries

The UCCSA of Botswana became a pioneer in the establishment and growth of a newer ministries specifically for young adults. This led to other synods of the UCCSA following suit and in 2017 Denominational Golden Jubilee Assembly in Durban, this new ministry was officially recognised by the church. And the 2018 report of the Mission Council highlighted this: “Those who attended the 2017 Assembly were witnesses when the Assembly agreed to recognise the Young Adults Ministry as one of the Ministries of the UCCSA, five years after it was recognised by the Synod of Botswana. You should applaud yourselves for continuing to be trendsetters within the entire Denomination” (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018b).

Other successes

Due to the limitations of the research assignment requirements, the research in this section will briefly highlight other successes realised during this lifespan of this missional policy. One of these is the implementation of clustered Easter Conventions where members of the church and entire community have an opportunity to come together and fellowship during Easter holidays(Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2017b: 1). The first of this kind was in 2016 when the 3 regions in the south of the country held a combined Easter convention in Kang, Macha Region. The ones in the North Held theirs in Maun, Bojanala Region. Both these events were successful and have since generated the need for more fellowship activities. These conventions have given the church an opportunity to evangelise and engaged more in activities that matter to the communities. Other successes were realised under Christian Education. A new Sunday school syllabus was developed and published, a new framework for Confirmation Classes was developed and implemented (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2018b: 4). An occasional book of prayers which contains latest liturgies, was developed and published. Some of the liturgies in it are, Tombstone Unveiling, Infant Blessing, House blessing, Ground Breaking, Marriage anniversary and Prayer for Rain (Botswana Synod/UCCSA, 2015b: 3).

Conclusion

This chapter focused on the successes or strengths of the missional policy. These are the achievements realised. The researcher has tried to pick from the reports interrogated the main successes and at the end summarised others. So many factors have led to these success. Improved communication, eagerness to work as a unit and the excitement of the celebrations have had influence in the UCCSA in Botswana having achieved the above.

18 May 2020

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