May 1, 2017
Over the years, seminaries have seen a number of variations in the types of students that they serve. This includes variations in denomination, location, age, purpose of enrollment, and much more. As seminaries expanded to include things like conference centers, apartment complexes, and counseling centers (like Sioux Falls Psychological Services here at Sioux Falls Seminary), it became even more difficult for seminaries to identify exactly who they were called to serve. We believe it is vital to understand who God is calling us to serve so that we might walk alongside those God places in our care in ways that help them “use whatever gift [they] have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
Back in the day, seminaries tended to serve only students from within a particular denomination. Students would move to wherever the seminary was located and were most likely attending the seminary because their local church had identified in them a call to vocational or professional ministry. There is debate around how long that paradigm was in place, but the reality is that seminaries were created with this in mind. In that world, it was quite easy for schools to articulate who they were called to serve.
Today, Sioux Falls Seminary has students in 25 different states and on five different continents. At any given time, over 30 different denominations can be represented within the student body. The student age range has expanded as well. We have students who are in their early twenties, and students in their mid-seventies, with an average age of 41. Our counseling center works with people who live within a 200-mile radius of Sioux Falls, but through telemental health can also work with people in other parts of the world. Our 18 therapists can provide services and assessment in nearly every area of mental health. As you can see, it is a little more difficult to have clarity on whom exactly God is calling us to serve!
Nonetheless, God provides Sioux Falls Seminary with specific resources to serve those he places in our care. As a seminary community, we walk alongside these individuals as we participate in the kingdom mission. Given the fact that, over the past several years, the types of people we serve and the locations where they live has expanded greatly, we will spend a few weeks sharing our thoughts on who we believe God has called us to serve. Please join us next week as we discuss what this means in relation to our work in theological education.