Church Growth Association has been led by Rev. Vasantharaj Albert for more than 25 years. Born into a Christian family, Rev. Vasantharaj has served as a pastor and church planter, at one point spending five years ministering among the Banjara people, also known as “gypsies.” His passion is to see the Gospel penetrate unreached communities through the training and sending of committed leaders. Rev. Vasantharaj’s wife Mano leads CGAI’s women’s ministry called Mission to Women. The couple has two children.
Church Growth Association of India (CGAI) was started in 1978 to research church growth in India. Through study, research, and publications—particularly the study of unreached people groups—the task of evangelization in India has been furthered. Over time, CGAI became a frontline training center for evangelism, developing a church-planting movement in people groups across India by training grassroots workers in cross-cultural evangelism. The ultimate goal of the ministry is the transformation of communities by the power of Jesus Christ through healthy, reproducing churches.
“I came to Chennai along with 23 other women from the state of Orissa to attend a women’s leadership training. We are all Christians and belong to the Dom people group. We are from small villages far from civilization. The teaching we received at CGAI was life-changing. One thing I valued most was the teaching about the Christian family. Though the CGAI people’s culture is so different from ours, they showed Christ’s love to us. Then and there I decided to show this kind of love to my family back home in my village. Since then, God has blessed my life greatly. I became a member of a self-help group and learned how to do banking and how to form and manage self-help groups. Now I am working to transform my own Dom people’s families and community.”
—Sakuntala, CGAI trainee
India is a very religious country, birthplace of four major religions, yet among its billion-plus people, only a little over 2% of the population is Christian. No other part of the world has as high a concentration of unevangelized people as India. With more than 4,635 distinct people groups, finishing the task of evangelism in India will require prepared workers, effective coordination, unwavering commitment, and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.
Opposition to Christianity is steadily increasing in certain regions in India. Over the last several decades, Hindu militant groups have been growing in strength and influencing society. Hindutva ideology, “India is Hindu Only,” tries to squelch all other religions in the country. Yet, God is at work, bringing people to Himself from all strata of Indian society.
In this context, the need of the hour is to identify and replicate the best practices of church growth and community transformation toward the goal of churches planted within unreached people groups.
Harvest Training, CGAI
In today’s context of church growth in India, there is a growing need to identify and replicate the best practices of church multiplication and community transformation. New believers are coming to faith in Christ, but the time has come to think beyond conversions. How will the Indian Church establish sound doctrines, train leaders, and create deep and lasting community impact?
God has uniquely prepared CGAI to answer these questions. CGAI’s Harvest Training School equips grassroots church planters to strategize, target, and reach a specific people group. The in-depth research that the ministry has conducted over several decades is fully utilized, and church planters are well-prepared culturally and missiologically, enabling them to apply biblical principles in their ministry context. The trainees are mentored in effective relationship-building, which ensures that the churches they plant are viewed as part of the people group’s own culture. They also develop a “community mindset” which helps them serve their community in a way that results in long-term transformation.
Today, CGAI’s network is reaching out to 72 people groups including the Banjara, Koya, Kondh, Puraja, Irula, and more. Through the Harvest Training project, 300 key leaders from these groups and others will be trained in basic church growth principles. They will be encouraged to start 300 Transformation Groups and pass their training on to 3,000 leaders.
Your gift will provide funds for experienced trainers to travel to the field for teaching and follow up, as well as food, lodging, transportation, and resources for the training sessions.
Scripture Storying Seminars, CGAI
Globally, four billion people are known as “oral communicators,” or non-literates, and do not yet have the written Scriptures in their mother tongue. Millions of these oral communicators live in India. A like-minded ministry called Scriptures In Use (SIU) has developed a successful methodology to reach non-literates with the Gospel which includes storytelling, drama, cultural adaptations of Scripture to song, and memorization. The training provides church planters with methods that are culturally, linguistically, and spiritually in tune with the worldview and learning styles of the people they minister to. CGAI has found this method to be extremely well received among the pastors and grassroots church planters they serve. Through CGAI’s network, groups of church planters will take the beginner module, while others who have already completed the beginner course will receive more advanced training. Two events will be held nearly every month with approximately 30 participants each. Just $45 will send one church planter to a seminar.
In coordination with our women’s initiative, Partners International Women, 20-30 women leaders from CGAI will come together for a women’s version of the training called Bridges to Women. This excellent teaching module trains women to share the Gospel with non-literate women using stories of biblical women.
Community Transformation Center, CGAI
With an estimated 400 million Indians living below the poverty line, CGAI knows that much more must be done to help marginalized communities come out of the cruel shackles of poverty and exploitation. CGAI’s development model, self-help groups, is a proven, successful platform to launch programs that result in community transformation.
To this end, in 2011, CGAI hopes to begin construction on a Community Transformation Center. The proposed location for the center is in an area where 90% of the current self-help groups exist.
At present, women from the groups must travel a distance of seven miles to the CGAI headquarters for training. This travel, which is difficult for most women, could be avoided once this new center is opened. Every month 200 women from local self-help groups could be trained in various skills including tailoring, lamination, screen printing, and more. The center would be located nearby the Tamil Nadu Veterinary University whose staff have already volunteered to help train the women in animal husbandry. An additional 150-200 women from North India could be brought to the center for training each year.
This center will create several models for small-scale businesses. The garment manufacturing operation that CGAI currently operates would be expanded, allowing more women to be employed and a wider array of marketable items to be produced. Several for-profit production units, managed by the women themselves, will be running at the center.
The center would also function as a “community college” of sorts for young women who cannot afford to go to university. At the center and with government funding, CGAI would be able to teach marketable skills to 40-60 young women each year with very little additional funding needed. Operating costs would be further mitigated by rental of the facility to local groups for conferences and events.
The building will be a multi-floor complex with the ground floor containing a kitchen, dining room, and large meeting hall. The second floor will contain workshops, classrooms, offices, and guest rooms. Dormitories will take up the third floor.
Partners would like to contribute $112,300for phase one of the center.
Capacity Building Training, CGAI
Christian leaders within the CGAI network will take part in a series of capacity-building training events in 2011-2012. These events will include training on the topics of mentoring, community development, community health evangelism (CHE), and the Bible. In all, 120 people involved with CGAI will receive training to expand their ministry skill and effectiveness. These training events have been requested by CGAI leadership to develop local leaders in areas of critical need.
Staff Support, CGAI
Indians are becoming more and more receptive to the Gospel. With the incredible growth of the Indian Church, CGAI continues to receive a deluge of requests to train grassroots leaders throughout the country. CGAI’s work in South Andhra Pradesh, South Orissa, Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand is producing tangible results, and the team hopes to further expand in the coming year.
While demands for their services continue to grow, CGAI finds itself without adequate staff support to cover the ministry needs. Equipping and mentoring leaders requires trained personnel. Publication of CGAI’s research and training materials takes significant time and effort by the office staff. Last year alone, CGAI wrote two books and published 64 pages of translated books into four languages.
Gifts to this project will provide partial support for 10 key workers including several trainers, office staff, and a vocational training coordinator, among others. Twenty percent of their support is raised locally. Partners is committed to helping with the remainder of the costs for these key staff.
Mission to Women, CGAI
In India many women, especially wives of pastors and missionaries, are not used to their full potential in ministry though they are very talented and gifted. The goal of Mission to Women is to train women from various denominational backgrounds who have a desire for ministry, equipping them to minister the love of Jesus among people in their home areas. The program involves three key elements: Women’s Trainers’ Training (training women leaders and pastors’ wives), Transformation Groups (Bible study groups), and self-help groups (empowering poor women through vocational training and micro enterprise).
These groups enhance the economic status of underprivileged and poor women in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and the area surrounding Chennai where CGAI is headquartered. Once solidarity is established in the groups, the women become powerful change agents in their societies. In several places, these groups have also been the catalyst for the planting of new churches. More than 3,000 women will take part in various aspects of the ministry this year. Gifts to this project will provide funding for leadership training for 300 women.