Rethink Development: Caring for Pastors in Burundi

Barry Whatley
October 02 2023



We’re excited and busy planning our next steps in our work in Burundi. We organized a successful conference last fall with over 180 attendees! We were struck by the hunger of these Christian leaders for training, networking, and discovering new ways to impact their communities. There was lots of energy in the room! 

Outreach Canada & Burundi

Outreach Canada’s focus in Burundi has been on equipping Christian leaders to enable the church in Burundi to fulfill its God-given mandate to see communities transformed for the glory of God. To fulfill that mandate we have three priority areas of impact:

  1. “Greater capacity” – providing leaders with skills to enable them to serve their communities.
  2. “Clearer thinking” – researching “best practices” in community development and sharing these insights with the church and Christian NGOs.
  3. “Deeper motivation” – gathering leaders for inspiration through workshops and conferences.

November Conference

Our November conference is again on the horizon, with some expanded reach!  During our fall conference, we will present the next phase of our research into Community Savings programs; this key strategy provides local community leaders with the capital and the vision to better serve their communities and start small cottage industries. It’s literally a global phenomenon and has had widespread impact in Burundi. We are researching ways to make these savings programs more sustainable and will share many insights with the participants, both in the capital Bujumbura, and – with expanded reach – in the second major city in the country, Gitega. 

Caring for Burundian Pastors

During our time together last fall with our core partners we talked specifically about the needs of Burundian pastors.  

The church is omnipresent in Burundi; it is one of those African countries where the Christian faith has become part of the fabric of the society – both urban and rural. The growth of the church in sub-Saharan Africa in the last 30 years is one of the most remarkable in Church history! One Pentecostal denomination in Burundi has over a million members (the population of the country is 12 million). The church is such a key player in every way in the very poor country, and we have been helping leaders to be more effective in helping their communities holistically. 

But the specific spiritual needs of pastors have not been on our radar … until now.

I shared with my Burundian colleagues how a friend and his church in the US has organized a yearly “pastors retreat” in neighbouring Tanzania. This retreat has become a phenomenal blessing for these pastors and their wives. I suggested that this could become an added focus to our serving the Burundian Church – this time addressing the particular needs of pastors and their families.  We sensed together that this was at the heart of what God would have us do!

SO … a pastors’ retreat is on the horizon this fall! November 8-10th.

Our initial focus will be on gathering 15 pastors and their wives at a retreat centre for three days. We are lining up speakers who will address such critical themes as self care, inner healing and dealing with brokenness and trauma, navigating conflict, overcoming discouragement. I will be one of the presenters. This will be new for most of these pastors. 

Part of the reality of ministry in Africa is that pastors care for others, and there is often no one to care for them. This is both a practical problem (no budget) and a cultural one. Sadly, a pervasive culture of performance places the pastor on a pedestal and discourages any sign of weakness!  Why would he need a retreat if he is a man of God and a prayer warrior!?  But Jesus saw the needs of his disciples and sought to weave into their busy lives times to “come aside for a while”. He also promises an easy yoke! The “performance” yoke that too many African pastors (and others) wear is not easy and light!

We want to bless these leaders and encourage them to lay some of their burdens down. 

Make a Difference in the Life of a Burundian Pastor

We are looking to sponsors to help make this possible. We are projecting that the cost of overall cost of the conference would be roughly $750 per couple. This would include their travel, lodging and food for the three days (as well as administrative costs). Each couple would contribute 50 $ to the retreat – which is a big sacrifice for them (a month’s salary for some). 

Thanks to a gift from a foundation earlier this year, we have a kick-start amount for the conference that would cover about $ 200 of the overall cost. 

Here is our request: 

Sponsor a pastoral couple for the retreat for $500!  (We are looking for 15 sponsorships.)

If that amount is rather daunting, we are also looking for sponsors for conference attendees; we project 200 combined attendance at the two, one-day events.  Costs are roughly $70 per participant; participants contribute $10.  Again, the kick-start amount reduces our costs to roughly $40. 

Sponsor a conference attendee for $ 40! Or 5 attendees for $200! (We are hoping for 200 sponsorships!)

Giving Options

Online Giving: Burundi Project

For all other giving options (cheque, e-transfer, etc.) visit our Donate Page and indicate "Burundi Conference" with your donation. 

Rethink Development

We titled our work in Burundi, “Rethink Development”, wanting to provide clearer thinking and practical solutions for church leaders committed to transforming their communities. That ongoing vision now includes a “spiritual” development focus to meet the needs of pastors as well. Our vision is that this first pastors’ retreat would be foretaste of more to come, and that these renewed pastors would spread the blessing to other leaders, to their churches, and beyond. 

Thanks for being part of this!

With you, serving with Outreach Canada,


Barry Whatley provides leadership and resources for French speaking Canadians and Africans in the areas of church health and revitilization, church planting and leadership development. Barry lives with his wife Laurie, in Hudson, Quebec.

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