September 25, 2017
If you worked at Sioux Falls Seminary and a number of students were only on campus for a few days each semester, what would you do?
This has been the challenge of planning Kairos Project intensives. We want our students to be fully trained. Fully alive. And each semester we have just four days in the same room with them.
Of course, Kairos Project students have many other learning opportunities. They do much of their learning in their ministry contexts, completing work under a mentor team. Most of them plug in traditional courses or other learning modules along the way. But for some, the intensive is the only time they are on campus having face-to-face interaction with faculty and fellow students.
So how would you plan that time?
There is always the lecture option. I, for one, think lectures are wonderful (when done wonderfully, at least). They are content-rich. In the past, however, I have watched students (even bright ones) drift off after an hour or two. Lectures have their place – and we plug in a few – but they do not get us to intensives that are inspiring, relevant, and memorable.
Honestly, we have not arrived at the perfect format yet. But here are some pieces we have tried with good results.
One piece of the intensive is a series of plenary sessions with a national speaker. In the past, we have brought in powerhouse presenters such as Ruth Haley Barton, Gary Hoag, Charles Self, and Wayne Gordon. They have offered key ideas, yes, but have also aimed at heart issues and critical ministry skills. Other plenary sessions have included “best of” presentations from professors and faculty panels discussing relevant topics.
A second piece has been our breakout sessions. Students sit under instructors who go at hard-hitting topics: conflict resolution, the Day of Atonement, Luther’s theology of the cross, a theological response to recreational marijuana use – just to name a few. These breakout sessions are discussion-rich, and many of them dovetail with the Kairos Project curriculum, helping students make progress in their respective programs.
Yet another vital piece has been getting students together in small groups. We have called them “huddles.” Students get together to process learning and complete projects. Even more importantly, they use these groups to share their lives and encourage one another. We suspect that some lifelong friendships have been forged.
Again, we are still working to find a perfect formula for the four-day intensives. In fact, this fall we try out a new component in which students bring their own case studies for group discussion. In a supervised setting, they will unpack a real-life ministry topic and then interact with fellow seminarians, analyzing the issues from multiple angles. Our hope is that through the case study process students acquire an integrative, communal approach to thinking, being, and doing.
At Sioux Falls Seminary, we are passionate about seeing students live as fully-formed Christian servants, as men and women fully alive, serving faithfully for the rest of their lives. An intensive is just a sliver of time but, by the grace of God, a lot can happen in four days.