January 11, 2021
by Greg Henson, President
Last week, we shared how Kairos is a pioneering approach to theological education that encourages students, partners, resource providers, faculty, authors, and more to build new experiences for students, mentors and all participants. The goal is for the Kairos to be the connector between multiple points within the network of theological education.
In order to be effective in this process, we believe institutions need to embrace the following principles: collaborative mission, contextual discipleship, integrated outcomes, customized proficiency, mentored teamwork, and holistic assessment. This week we are going to explore collaborative mission.
Kairos is committed to the idea that one’s journey of theological education should involve voices outside the walls of any one institution. In practice, that means followers of Jesus who are students, mentors, business leaders, pastors, church planters, missionaries, electricians, clerks, etc. should all be working together toward a common goal. That goal is the Great Commission. The goal is not preservation of our institutions, organizations, or own little kingdoms. As the Body of Christ, we are following Jesus on mission. God is in the business of reconciling the world through Christ and we are invited to participate in that work. We are invited to be like Jesus, not to do things for Jesus.
This can be difficult for any institution to embrace, but it can be especially difficult for schools. As a school, being committed to Collaborative Mission means reconsidering our definitions of success. We must embrace the idea that if our collaborators (e.g. students, mentors, churches, businesses, parachurch organizations, etc.) are not successful, then we are not successful. While we have a unique role to play, we must refrain from imposing our mission on everyone else. This is an invitation to shift our focus from simply “fulfilling our mission” and toward “participating in God’s mission” of reconciliation. Obviously, none of us imagine that what we are doing is “imposing our mission” on others. All of us are committed to walking alongside followers of Jesus. As a school, however, our deeply ingrained practices, mixed with the power granted to us by our culture, have the unintentional impact of missional imposition. Because our definitions of success tend to be rooted in metrics held in high regard by the academy, our practices reinforce a mission that puts the academy ahead of the Great Commission rather than the Great Commission ahead of the academy.
Perhaps we need to align our definitions of success with the definitions of success shared by our Kingdom-minded collaborators. Now, it could be easy to suggest that the definitions of success utilized by our Kingdom-minded collaborators are not something toward which we should strive. We might suggest that all of us tend to define success in terms of growth in people (enrollment, members, customers, etc.), finances (budgets, revenue, savings, etc.), and assets (buildings, property, etc.).
This is why it needs to be a collaborative effort. We must hold each accountable to the Great Commission, to the work God is doing, and to the fact that God is inviting us into a way of being that points to the reality that Jesus reigns. No individual and no institution can do this alone. All of us must humble ourselves and submit to one another. In this process of mutual submission, institutions with significant levels of power, and particularly people within those institutions who have the most power, must constantly give away that power. We must distribute power by inviting people to the table and then giving everyone at the table equal voice. In doing so, we can truly collaborate on mission. We can see that success is communally defined rather than institutionally defined.
As an educational principle, Collaborative Mission means we are no longer solely responsible for the “who, what, how, and when” of the educational process. While our expertise, experience, knowledge, and power are all important and must be brought to the table, we must remember that we are one of the collaborators at the table. Our voice matters and carries weight, but no more weight than our fellow followers of Jesus who are collaborating with us. That is why mentored teamwork matters immensely.
Join us next week when we talk about mentored teamwork.