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In April 2017, International Children’s Ministries hosted the first of a series of training events targeting leaders serving in the French-speaking nations of West Africa. At the first training event, held in the Ivory Coast, 130 individuals from nine countries gathered for instruction that strengthened ministry skills, elevated understanding concerning the value of children in the kingdom of God, and developed advocates for children in the nations represented.

The selection of West Africa for this first-ever training cycle was strategic. At the time, five percent of all people living on earth lived in this region, making it one of the world’s most populated regions. In all nine nations in the area, a minimum of 40% of the population was children under 14. West Africa is poised to be the single region with the most significant number of children globally.

In addition to the statistical significance of this region for serving children is the predominance of the Islamic religion. In seven nations, most of the population is Islamic, with 90% of the people in Niger, Mali, and Senegal identifying as Islamic. Within 25 years, the number of practicing Muslims is anticipated to double to 960 million.

With this in mind, the West Africa Institutes of Children’s Ministry would allow Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP) leaders to establish a firm commitment to evangelizing the children of these nations. The training would also provide the tools and skills required to raise lifelong, committed disciples of Christ. By accomplishing these two visionary objectives, an abundance of capable, gifted men and women would be developed to confidently serve Christ in their homes, churches, and communities.

Partnering with International Children’s Ministries in this effort was the COGOP in Tennessee, committing to raise the majority of the funds needed for the training efforts. In time, additional states and individuals came alongside the effort providing monies to host the first three years of consecutive training in Ivory Coast (2017), Togo (2018), and Guinea Conakry (2019). A fourth-year called “Train the Trainers” was set to convene in Benin in 2020. However, travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic would delay the event until May 2022.

May 11-15, 2022, the fourth event was held at the national property for the COGOP in the Ivory Coast. Individuals who showed promise as potential trainers were selected by their respective national overseers to be in attendance. The nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Conakry, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Niger, and Senegal were represented. The international director of Children’s Ministries led the training, Dr. Shaun McKinley. The training team members included Tennessee State Director of Children’s Ministries Kim Batson, Tennessee COGOP Missions Coordinator and KidServe Coordinator Michelle Brooks-Young, and Gladys Hawkins. Hawkins serves as Georgia COGOP Treasurer and Children’s Ministries Director.

For three days, individuals participated in an intense training experience that introduced instructional design systems, taught them to conduct needs assessments, modeled various training methods when teaching adults, and enhanced their skills and presentation techniques. Participants were also taught effective training design, including using icebreakers, alternatives to lectures, and developing quality visual aids. They also identified their preferred learning styles, learned the basics of a positive learning environment, discussed dynamic delivery techniques, and learned how to address challenges when training others. This was the first time this course of training was ever presented.

Each trainee presented a 10-minute class to the entire group on the final day. They were critiqued by the training team and their peers based on seven categories of effective training that were presented throughout the week. Trainers conducted additional seminars on asking good questions and evaluation. Dr. McKinley also shared an overview of the steps for transitioning training from being driven by the international ministry to being organized by their nations.

At the conclusion of the final day, a spontaneous time of prayer and worship erupted. The Holy Spirit directed the participants to Isaiah 43:19, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

The goal of this training and the 30-course trainer’s manual available to those completing it is that they will return to their countries and begin confidently, thoughtfully, and skillfully training others.

In May 2023, a final West Africa Institute of Children’s Ministry in this series will be conducted in Benin. Those trainers who excel at implementing training in their areas between this training and then will be invited back to serve as trainers for the event. A team from International Children’s Ministries will join as monitors and coaches to these trainers. This fifth institute will serve as the official transition for these national ministries to implement training on a local, district, and national level throughout their areas.

“We are immensely proud of this inaugural cohort of trainers in Children’s Ministries,” said Dr. Shaun McKinley. “They are ready to make an impact in their nations for the Gospel’s sake and the future of the children they serve.”

On Sunday, the training team ministered to a gathering of the five area COGOP churches in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Before returning to the United States, they also revisited the national property to meet the teachers and students who participate in school daily on the campus.

International Children’s Ministries praises God for what has been accomplished in West Africa through this pioneering project. We are praying about future opportunities to replicate this strategy throughout the world. We also thank our generous donors who, along with the international ministry and the Africa General Presbyter’s Office, supplied more than $117,000.00 to provide the transportation, lodging, and resource costs for those participating in these training events. To partner with us in the final installment of this training process or learn more about other potential projects around the world, email