October 30, 2017
Sioux Falls Seminary exists to develop servants for their participation in the kingdom mission. One of the ways we fulfill this mission is to invite others to join us. Good partnerships benefit each partner and impact the kingdom in ways that we cannot do on our own. For us, partnerships usually form around processes, programs, or promotion. Today, I am focusing on process (or operational) partnerships.
Often, when people think about the work of a seminary, they picture students who are learning and being equipped for ministry. Often overlooked are all of the things that must happen in order to facilitate the development and support of these students. Students need to register for classes and pay tuition, buildings need to be maintained, student data needs to be managed, classroom technology needs to work, etc. Many schools accomplish these tasks by either hiring staff or outsourcing to vendors. Both of these options add significant cost. Sioux Falls Seminary takes another route by, first, looking for strategic partners. Here are a few examples.
Augustana University, our neighbor across the street, handles our library, information technology (IT), business office, building maintenance, federal loan processing, and educational technology needs. This partnership is so integrated into operational structure that students often talk to Augustana staff without even noticing. In return through Sioux Falls Psychological Services, we handle all of Augustana’s counseling services. What makes this partnership strategic is how each school serves the other through an area of strength. We have been able to integrate processes so that Augustana and/or Sioux Falls Seminary staff perform the same functions for both schools.
Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, AB, is our sister school. Together, we serve the North American Baptist Conference. We partner with Taylor at all three levels—process, program, and promotion. Our current operational partnership includes a shared registrar and online student platform. The majority of seminaries within the Association of Theological Schools have less than 200 students, and the systems it takes to manage these students is very expensive. Sharing staff and systems decreases costs and provides a better student experience. This is exactly what our partnership with Taylor Seminary is doing.
The Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary is so innovative that traditional student management systems do not work well with it. As a result, we are in conversation with a few other schools with innovative programs to see how we might develop a software platform to serve our needs. Although exploration is just beginning, this is yet another example of how partnership can make it possible to do something better, and at a more efficient cost, than we could do on our own.
Colossians 3:17 reminds us, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Strategic partnerships with other kingdom-minded organizations are just one way Sioux Falls Seminary is living into this.