August 7, 2017
Last week, I shared with you how the amazing group of people here at Sioux Falls Seminary are committed to being stewards of the opportunities God that provides. When Christians talk about God’s provision, we tend to focus solely on financial resources or physical assets. God has definitely provided Sioux Falls Seminary with abundant resources in these two areas. However, his provision of opportunities for innovation are, quite possibly, the most staggering.
The past five years at Sioux Falls Seminary have been an immense blessing. We have been given the opportunity to completely reimagine theological education and integrative counseling. Through a series of events, God laid before this institution a unique set of circumstances that enabled us to think creatively, embrace change, and bring about a fresh expression of the work we do. In the second part of this series on being stewards of opportunity and innovation, we are going to look at what we have done in the areas of theological education and integrative counseling.
Much is said about our work in theological education. In fact, I get a phone call or e-mail about once per week asking for advice on certain aspects of theological education. However, Sioux Falls Seminary has been just as innovative with integrative counseling.
Sioux Falls Psychological Services, the counseling center run by the seminary, is one of the largest outpatient therapy clinics in the region. Over the past few years, the need for integrative therapy (therapy that integrates theology and psychology) has grown significantly. As a result, we continue to expand our reach and the ways in which we can serve clients.
In Sioux Falls, we have our location on Norton Avenue, a new location at Central Church, and serve as the provider for Augustana Student Counseling (an innovative and effective partnership between Augustana University and Sioux Falls Seminary). In addition, we have a location in Platte, SD, called River Counseling. In order to serve families at all socio-economic levels, we created the Community Counseling Clinic where those who are uninsured or underinsured can receive therapy for little or no fee. Recently, we launched telemental health services, enabling therapists to provide HIPPA-compliant counseling services via videoconference. Through this new service, we are able to offer counseling to the underserved and rural areas of South Dakota, providing greater accessibility for those who limited by distance or physical challenges.
Rather than seeking growth, Sioux Falls Psychological Services seeks to meet people where they are, offering hope. To do this well, we must be aware of the opportunities and needs that exist and then respond faithfully. Each of the areas listed in the previous paragraph have come through opportunities to meet people where they are. It is a blessing to steward these opportunities for innovation.
When it comes to theological education, most will point to the Kairos Project as the key innovation. While this may be true and a good example of how the seminary embraced an opportunity for innovation, let me dive a little deeper in order to provide new examples of what it looks like to steward opportunities for innovation.
The Kairos Project has been great. It continues to grow and gain notoriety across the world of theological education. As a seminary, we could have rested in this reality and simply continued down the path originally set forward. However, as Kairos began to grow, new opportunities arose, which meant we were faced with a choice—either steward those opportunities for innovation or let them pass by so we could focus on growth or on perfecting our original innovation.
One such opportunity relates to competencies and credit hours. The Kairos Project falls into a category called competency-based theological education, a realm where “competencies” are the dominant currency and “credit hours” are persona non grata. The two tend to disassociate. As we developed Kairos, however, we discovered an opportunity to create a tool for translating competencies into credit hours and credit hours into competencies. By embracing this opportunity and the mounds of work that would ensue, we have found a way to utilize both credit hours and competencies at the same time. While this sounds mundane and unimportant, it has enabled us to create new programs, new partnerships, and even new delivery methods. Because we are not beholden to one measurement of learning, we are able to work with students and partners from nearly every corner of the educational world. Most schools are restricted to one category or the other. We have only begun to find the ways in which this innovation will help students as we pursue our kingdom calling.
Stewardship is an all-encompassing act of faithful response to God’s provision. We are grateful for God’s provision of everything from financial and physical resources to wonderful people and exceptional opportunities.