Kairos: Shifting the Focus of Theological Education

August 18, 2014

There are two words for time in Greek.  The first, chronos, refers to chronological time – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, etc.  The second, kairos, refers to a specific moment in time or a specific time in which an activity or incident occurs.

For many years, the primary method of theological education has been based on the “chronos” understanding of time.  Students progress chronologically through a specific set of courses over a certain number of years and, provided they pass the courses, receive a degree at the end.

Unfortunately, this model has, in many instances, developed a system of theological education that is prohibitively expensive, lacks integration, and is built around content instead of outcomes.  Chronological time spent in class and the grades received in that class have been used as the primary measurement of student learning.

Our vision is to create a system of theological education that shifts the focus from chronos to kairos.  In this system, students are fully engaged, and learning is more effective because it’s built around moments in time that naturally encourage integrated learning.  In addition, students are held accountable to specific outcomes rather than to the chronological progression through a set of courses.  As students are engaged in learning, life, and ministry, a team of mentors walks alongside them, providing encouragement and assistance.

To achieve this vision, we are launching the Kairos Project: Shifting the Focus of Theological Education.  The research project will include 10-15 students who will participate in and critique this re-imagined system of theological education.  A group of individuals including Doug Kempton, Emily Thompson, and Tom Henderson will be our first students.

Doug Kempton
Doug’s story winds through college, becoming a founder of Kinko’s, the launch of a nonprofit to serve inner-city kids, and a three-year discipleship journey that brought him to his role as Interim Lead Pastor at Grace Community Church in Detroit, Michigan.  Doug writes, “It’s taken me a long time to reconcile my heart’s desire and God’s calling on my life, but I am there now.”  He has a strong desire to serve God to the best of his ability and believes that theological education should be an important aspect of his development.  However, his commitments as a husband, father, executive director, and lead pastor did not mesh well with the traditional model of theological education.

Emily Thompson
It was during college that Emily first felt a call from God to walk alongside others in their spiritual journeys.  As others began to recognize this call on her life, Emily began to develop an understanding of how God might use her gifts and abilities.  She writes, “Seminary was an impossible, lost dream due to motherhood, finances, my full-time job, and a long list of other responsibilities.”  Emily is thankful for and committed to her calling as a mother, wife, and employee and is searching for a way to integrate theological education into those roles versus being separated from them.

Tom Henderson
As the founder of and lead communicator for Restoration Generation, Tom speaks at music festivals, schools, camps, retreats, and conferences.  His first book, Heart [Not Hype], was published in 2013 and provides a seven-day discipleship journey for new believers.  Throughout Tom’s 17 years of service in ministry, he has been encouraged to attend seminary and has often considered it.  However, the traditional model would not allow him to continue ministering around the country.  The prohibitive cost of theological education added another barrier.

The stories of these students are diverse, yet similar.  Each feels called to serve the mission of God but has felt as though the traditional model of theological education would not serve him or her well.  Doug, Emily, Tom, and many others have desired a system that would involve a holistic journey, one that would more fully develop them for their unique callings.  The Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary is that journey.

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