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Serving Those in Our Care, Part 2

July 25, 2016

Sphere # 2: People and relationships that reside within South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska

As we continue describing the spheres or geographic areas in which Sioux Falls Seminary is called to serve, we turn our attention to Sphere #2: People and relationships that reside within South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.  This sphere extends the reach we described last week when our focus was centered on people and relationships within 70 miles of one of our locations.

While it is true that many people who avail themselves of our academic programs, events, or counseling services live relatively close to the seminary, we have also developed a strong network among the five states that surround Sioux Falls.  Churches, mental health professionals, local pastors, social service providers and many more recognize Sioux Falls Seminary as a vital resource in our region.

Our desire to serve people within our five-state region enables the seminary to build relationships that extend beyond the city of Sioux Falls and prepare us for the national and global initiatives that we will discuss next week.

But why do we limit Sphere #2 to the surrounding five states?  If students from across the country, indeed the world, can and do attend the seminary, why do we put what could seem like arbitrary limits on this second sphere of influence and focus?

The answer is twofold: 1) We do more than provide theological education, and 2) Local churches and ministries in our five-state area value the fact that our graduates fit well in their ministry contexts. Let’s look at each of these reasons.

First, many people often overlook the fact that Sioux Falls Seminary is much more than a traditional seminary. Our kingdom calling or mission is to create systems of theological education and integrated counseling.  It is the “integrated counseling” phrase that often goes unnoticed.  One of the ways we serve those God places in our care is by offering counseling services that fully integrate good theology and good therapy.  Currently, we have nearly twenty therapists offering hope to those in need.  As we strive to meet people where they are, we anticipate that our reach will expand beyond our multiple locations as we continue to grow.  During any given year, we serve thousands of people through our counseling clinic.

Over the past two years, we have learned that our style of counseling is greatly appreciated and have people from within the five-state region asking how we might bring our services to their areas.  We believe keeping our focus on the five-state area will allow us to retain a very high quality of service to clients that might reside in one of these states while also offering our services in accessible locations.

Last week, we had a graduate tell us that the churches in his area value Sioux Falls Seminary because its students and graduates are better prepared for ministry in this context than graduates from seminaries in other parts of the country.  Statements like this resonate with what we hear from local churches and local denominational leaders.  The second reason Sphere #2 focuses on our five-state area is encapsulated by this reality.

There are many unique aspects to ministry within our five-state area, and it is beneficial to help grow where God has planted them.  Some local denominational leaders, including those in our regional North American Baptist churches, have found that if people pick up and move to a seminary in a different part of the country that they often don’t come back.  Instead, these leaders hope to identify and develop ministry leaders while they remain in their contexts.  Sioux Falls Seminary, therefore, works to create relationships in this area so that those called by God to be servants of the King can engage in a journey of theological education without leaving their “homes.”

Last week we talked about Sphere #1, which has a radius of 70 miles from one of our locations. Using the two reasons listed above, Sphere #2 extends our focus to a radius that includes the five states that surround Sioux Falls Seminary.  Next week, we will look at Sphere #3, which widens our gaze to the nation and the globe.  We will dive deeper into that topic next week.

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