November 7, 2016
Series on the Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary
Post 8: Where Are We Going From Here?, Pt. 1 – International Partnerships
Over the past several weeks, we have shared what we have learned from our work with the Kairos Project. It is an alternative educational track within the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Leadership, and Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) programs that facilitates flexible learning through contextually integrated educational moments and adaptable assignments. We launched it in 2014 with 15 students and now roughly half of our master’s-level students are pursuing degrees through this track. We have learned many things and make improvements each year based on what we are learning.
In addition to improving what we have been doing, we are stepping into unchartered territory by considering how this educational philosophy might work in international contexts, regional cohorts, or accelerated degree models. These topics form the outline for the next three weeks. Today, we begin by looking at how this concept might work in an international context.
For over 25 years, Larry Caldwell, Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Sioux Falls Seminary, has served as a missionary and been deeply involved in theological education around the globe. He shares some thoughts on how the underlying philosophy of the Kairos Project can work well in global contexts.
From Larry Caldwell, Chief Academic Officer and Dean:
When the seminary first developed the Kairos Project, I was most excited about its potential for use in international contexts. I was particularly interested in how it might be used to help develop missionaries in their local ministry contexts, especially nonwestern missionaries. My interest stemmed from my own bias as a career missionary in the Asian context for over three decades, helping to create missionary training programs in several nations and develop over 2,000 missionaries (mostly nonwestern ones).
The Kairos Project is particularly geared to international contexts for four reasons: 1) its emphasis on outcomes; 2) its flexibility with targets to meet those outcomes; 3) its stress upon knowledge, character, and competency in equal measure; and 4) its use of mentor teams. These four areas appeal both to missionary sending organizations and the missionaries themselves. The areas also appeal to national pastors who have never had the opportunity for formal theological education. The fact is that the vast majority of missionaries—both western and nonwestern—as well as national pastors, have very little formal biblical, theological, or anthropological education.
To meet this need, Sioux Falls Seminary is developing a new Kairos Project track with an intercultural studies emphasis within the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) program. Collaboratively, we gathered thoughts and ideas from local ministry leaders and theological educators as well as their North American counterparts. The end result is a distance education track that will help meet the needs of the missionaries and pastors mentioned above. Because it is an academic Master of Arts program, students can complete the entire degree through distance education, which means students can stay in context for the entirety of their learning experience. The track’s flexible target assignments allow students to increase their understanding of the Bible and theology in a fully contextualized way and according to their own culture and ministry contexts. Furthermore, the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) intercultural studies track gives students the anthropological skills necessary to exegete their ministry contexts for optimal relevance.
The new track also allows flexibility in partnering with international mission and church networks by using local leaders on mentor teams and adjusting targets to best meet the training needs of those networks. It is important to note that all of this occurs under the direction of and set forth within the framework created by Sioux Fall Seminary’s faculty. Likewise, students in the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) intercultural studies track progress toward the same degree program outcomes as all students in the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) program, but are allowed to adjust the pathway to those outcomes. Because of their intimate connection with the students and the ministry contexts, the networks with whom Sioux Falls Seminary partners will help ensure that individuals from their networks do assignments that have maximum meaning and relevance to their specific ministry contexts.
As Sioux Falls Seminary shares this concept with others, we are learning that there is much interest in the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) intercultural studies track. We are having serious discussions with several international mission organizations and church networks. In fact, this month, I travel to Manila this to inaugurate a pilot project for this new track with a church-based international network that has 100,000 members in the Philippines and has sent out over 200 of its own career cross-cultural missionaries. The leadership of this group sees the potential of this educational track to excel their already excellent “in-house” training of their national pastors and cross-cultural workers to a new level. Another Filipino leader is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at Sioux Falls Seminary with the intent partnering with us to train hundreds of expatriate house church pastors scattered throughout the Middle East.
There is tremendous potential for the Kairos Project in international settings through the Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) intercultural studies track. My hope is that it helps revolutionize theological training throughout the world. Join us next week as we continue talking about how the educational philosophy behind the Kairos Project might also work in regional cohorts or accelerated degree models.