Apprenticeships: why we think they’re a big deal

Jospeh Matovu and Ken Irungu were ministry apprentices with iServe Africa in Kenya. Here they explain the difference their apprenticeships have made.

Ken Irungu

“When I was growing up my parents were constantly pointing out different people who they wanted me to emulate when I grew up. They encouraged me to work hard in school and go into a well-paid career. My parents wanted me and my siblings to excel, to get a good job, a good house, a good car. To go into gospel ministry would be letting my parents down.

“Gospel ministry is considered a ‘lower profession’, not suitable for someone who is well educated. The opinion is that if you’ve had a good education you should go into a well-paid profession. When I finished university, there was strong peer pressure to join my friends in establishing themselves in the world. It was such a big temptation to want to be like them. 

“So it is a big challenges to raise up new gospel workers in Kenya. Young people are fearful of disobeying their parents and reluctant to pay the cost that comes with gospel ministry. 

“After I joined the iServe Africa apprenticeship programme I had family members who tried to coerce me to change my mind. They reminded me of how much my parents had invested in my education. They said that to join Christian ministry would be ‘wasting my degree’. Others on the apprenticeship programme have family members who won’t even be associated with them - they do not want to share the shame of a university graduate joining gospel ministry instead of going into the professional world. 

“Joining gospel ministry calls for boldness to challenge what the culture thinks is of first importance. 
That is why I am so encouraged by the apprenticeship model. A Christian apprenticeship will give you friends who have had to make similarly hard decisions to join gospel ministry. It will give you the encouragement and mentoring to continue in gospel ministry. And, you will gain a better grasp of the gospel. 

“Many people in Kenya are unclear of what the gospel is – even those who go to church. Throughout my apprenticeship with iServe Africa we went to the Bible again and again to remove all the fog in my mind about the gospel. It clarified the gospel for me and helped me to articulate it well. I was given the chance to preach and teach and then given feedback every step of the way. Many churches in East Africa lack good bible teachers and so false gospels have taken root. As a ministry apprentice I was able to sit under good teaching and grow in my understanding of the whole bible story. 

“Having served my apprenticeship in churches in three different cities, my understanding of what a local church should be has been greatly challenged. These placements gave me an opportunity to not only practice what we are taught during the ministry training sessions, but also to see why the local church is so important in God’s display of his power in the universe. I have seen three churches that are really seeking to be as the New Testament says churches should be. I desire to see many churches in Kenya become like this – to be totally gospel centred and committed to discipling all to become more Christ-like. 

“Gospel ministry is all about people and the apprenticeship helped me to see how investing in people helps impact the next generation. This is especially true for apprentices who come fresh from university. Voices from the world are strong but we are still open to listening and learning and changing direction. It is a key time for finding out what the gospel and gospel ministry are all about.” 

Ken Irungu


Joseph Matovu

“I attended catholic schools for both my primary and secondary education. I had a keen interest in religious things but had never heard the gospel explained from the Bible. In my third year of secondary school a student from my class become a born again Christian. I, being loyal to the pope, tried to correct his thinking but, before long, he opened up the Bible with me. He explained the truth of Scripture and I began to see that Jesus was very, very important. Soon I was convinced that my Catholic belief was wrong, but I couldn’t embrace ‘born again’ faith because many of the preachers I knew taught a ‘heaven on earth’ message. They’d take one verse and use it to promise health and wealth - I knew this was wrong. Two years later I heard God’s word taught on Christian radio and I knew this was the real thing – I went back to my school mate and told him that I wanted to put my faith in Jesus. 

“What I wanted next was to find a Christian small group where I could study the Bible with others and one-to-one. But in my university Christian Union every wind of doctrine was accepted. Many of the seemingly more mature Christians attended some of the biggest prosperity gospel churches. Later on I was drawn into leadership of the Christian Union but I shied away from any preaching engagements because I didn’t want to preach what the itching ears of my listeners wanted to hear. I was not prepared to promise them health and wealth. I was made to feel like a second class Christian because of my convictions, and that I was missing out on something important as a Christian.
“After university I joined the iServe Africa apprenticeship programme. It was there that I was finally taught how to faithfully handle God’s word, heard good bible expositions and mentored one-to-one by a mature Christian. It was just what I had longed for all throughout school and university. It was a year of significant input, both from iServe Africa and my placement church. Thanks to this Christian apprenticeship I am no longer ashamed of the gospel. I have been in the UK doing the Cornhill Training Course for two years now and I am very keen to go back to Uganda to be involved in church planting and preaching the gospel.”

Joseph Matovu

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