“There are bible schools all over the place; sometimes a church will just start one,” Champness said. “But the quality of that training – the thoroughness and seriousness of it – is not as good. People come to us [ATS] by our reputation because they want to be well trained and understand scripture.”
ICM launched its first degree-level program in Kitale in 1993. Today, the ATS program offers a Bachelor of Arts degree and certifications in Bible and theology, Christian education, and counseling. In addition to Kenya and Uganda locations, ATS has campuses in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The seminary operates on a trimester system, a three-month hybrid program that allows students to complete their educations while supporting their families and remaining active in ministry. Online classes are unavailable because internet access in rural areas is unreliable, so residential instruction is essential.
“They stay for about ten days in our in-service program where they go through their class work and get relational discipleship,” Champness said. “Then they have assignments they finish at home over the next two and a half months.”
ATS coursework is taught by professors with advanced degrees, including some doctorates, who have real-world experience as pastors and ministry leaders. Seminary courses include Old and New Testament Bible, Greek and Hebrew, hermeneutics, theology, and counseling, with a focus on personal growth and evangelism.
The all-inclusive cost per student ranges from $1,500 to $2,200, depending on the country. Champness said staff and students “live sacrificially” as ICM continues to develop ways to cut costs, like the ministry’s coffee-growing venture on Mt. Elgon. At 6,000 ft, the region is a prime area for growing coffee, and a new harvest is expected by August. ICM leadership expects the monies earned from the roasting and sales of the coffee beans to increase scholarships, stabilize the staff, and make room for more students.
In the meantime, ATS will continue to expand its reach and teach leaders to handle the Word of God accurately so those coming to Christ are not easily swayed by wrong or false teaching in a country where bad theology like animism, legalism, and prosperity gospel, among others, is widespread. Champness said he finds great fulfillment in working with church leaders and families so vested in the cause of Christ, that they dance with joy at graduation ceremonies.
“It means so much to them – when I tell them the textbooks are theirs to take home, they tear up,” Champness said. “They live in difficult circumstances but are not depressed by them – they live to see people come to know Jesus.”