October 16, 2017
The composition of the student body at Sioux Falls Seminary has changed rather dramatically over the past few years. We now have students spread out across the United States, others in several continents around the world, and a growing number of students located near Sioux Falls. As someone who is in meetings almost every hour of every day, this shifting reality has presented itself in the number of time zones with which I need to be familiar! Just today, I talked with students in five different time zones, met with people on the west coast of Canada, and joined a group meeting in Kansas City via video conference. It seems that now, possibly more than ever, Sioux Falls Seminary is indeed a global seminary.
While the quantity and geographic distribution of our students has expanded, the faith traditions with which they identify has not changed. At any one time, we might have 30 different denominations represented in our seminary, but our students come from five broad categories: Baptist, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Reformed, Nondenominational.
Both the number of denominations and the various traditions is common for most seminaries across North America. What makes us unique is that no single group makes up the majority of our students. In fact, no group is greater than 40% of our students. This is an amazing opportunity for learning and when coupled with the geographic distribution of our students shows the importance of stewarding well this educational and formational opportunity.
This level of “diversity” related to faith tradition, location, ministry context, personal experience, and culture provides an opportunity for a learning experience in which students must not only learn their tradition, but must also become aware of others within the Christian faith thereby enhancing their ability to work with other servants who are participating in the kingdom mission. Put simply, a Lutheran will better understand what it means to be Lutheran if she has to explain her theology to and work alongside a Baptist. Likewise, a Baptist will be a better Baptist if she must work alongside a Wesleyan.
This diversity of perspective enriches the journey of discipleship and we must pay close attention to how we steward and encourage that (and more) diversity. One way we do that is by focusing on outcomes (surprise, surprise! I know you did not see that one coming). Partnerships, educational outcomes, and relationships all foster diversity and empower the voice of the individual while also ensuring people remain faithful to the unshakeable truth of God’s Word. Rest assured, we will not lose sight of this important asset as we steward the resources God has given Sioux Falls Seminary.