Partnership Continuum: Legacy Partnerships

August 9, 2021

By: Greg Henson, President; David Williams, President at Taylor Seminary;Tony Blair, President at Evangelical Seminary; Gary Bailey, President at BLI School of Ministry; and Becky Towne, President at Houston Graduate School of Theology

Two weeks ago, we shared details about the partnership framework we use within Kairos. It helps the Kairos community think through everything from how it discerns and implements collaborative initiatives and partnerships to the continuum of partnership possibilities it provides. The continuum of partnership possibilities includes the following categories: Legacy, Integrated, Collaborating, and Operating. You can review a brief overview of each here.

Today, we are going to talk more about Legacy Partnerships. We’ll share a few examples and outline how Legacy Partnerships are identified, developed, implemented, and supported.


As Kairos engages in its work of stewarding followers of Jesus who flourish in their vocations, we pay close attention to schools that seem to share a common commitment to affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful theological education. Rather than actively pursuing new Legacy Partnerships, Kairos responds to opportunities and conversations that occur naturally in the course of our work. In doing so, we have learned that the primary characteristic of a potential legacy partner is a deep commitment to theological education as, first and foremost, a journey of discipleship.

Often, Legacy Partnerships are developed around a shared desire to develop a collaborative, innovative, and fresh expression of theological education. While there may be a desire to reduce costs, leverage new opportunities for programs, or create scalable operational models, it is important to note that successful legacy partners will see collaboration with Kairos as the best way to accelerate their mission fulfillment and broaden missional scope as they step boldly into a new future.

In this new future, a legacy partner’s name, heritage, and identity will be maintained within a university-like structure wherein each partner is a unique brand (“dba”) within Kairos. While honoring the past, Kairos and its legacy partners are also embracing a future wherein students from around the world can access a wider array of expertise, theological traditions, and unique learning experiences – all while adhering to our shared desire to provide a system of theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful.

Once a school identifies itself as a potential legacy partner or responds positively to such an invitation from Kairos, the conversation moves into the development stage.


The partnership development stage is best characterized as one of mutual discernment. Conversations that take place during this stage present opportunities for Kairos and a potential legacy partner to talk more deeply about shared mission and vision, programs, staffing, operational practices, financial arrangements, and governance.

The primary goal of this stage is to discern whether or not a Legacy Partnership is the next best step. If the potential legacy partner and Kairos both discern such a partnership is indeed the next best step, a joint venture agreement is crafted. The agreement functions as a legal document outlining the high-level aspects of the implementation process. If it is mutually discerned that a Legacy Partnership is not the next best step, the conversation then begins to focus on other types of collaboration and partnership (e.g., Integrated, Collaborating, and Operating).

If a joint venture agreement is written, it will define the timeline for full integration as a legacy partner (i.e., when governance, accreditation, assets, operations, programs, etc. will formally change). More importantly, the joint venture agreement functions as a formal commitment to shared mission by outlining the missional rationale for the Legacy Partnership. In our experience, if shared mission is not the driving force behind a Legacy Partnership, other types of collaboration should be pursued instead.

With the successful completion of a joint venture agreement, we move into the Implementation stage.


The implementation process happens in three phases:

  1. Governance and Accreditation – In this phase, the responsibility for governance and executive-level administration of a legacy partner is placed upon Kairos. How this works may vary based on a particular context, but the underlying change remains the same in that the Kairos Board of Trustees becomes the governing board of the legacy partner and, therefore, the responsibility for accreditation shifts as well.
  2. Planning and Communication – In order for the full integration of a legacy partner to go smoothly, the process is outlined in a high-level transition plan that addresses programs, enrollment processes, fundraising, budgetary management, staffing, student services, and more. It is in this stage that the partnership is shared more broadly through an intentional communication plan.
  3. Integration and Development – The final phase is where everything outlined in phase 2 is actually accomplished. As such, this phase can take place over many months or even years depending on the needs and context of a given legacy partner. It is during this phase that the accreditation transition process is completed through a modified teach-out arrangement that integrates accreditation while maintaining the history, heritage, and unique aspects of particular degree programs. Ultimately, this stage is one of ongoing iteration and improvement as the legacy partnership is fully implemented. Inevitability, we learn things along the way that help to make it better. This leads us to the final stage of the process.


Kairos is focused on the fact that theological education is something that must happen in community because discipleship is a communal endeavor. The community in which it happens, therefore, has a profound formational impact on everyone who participates in Kairos. As a result, Kairos covenants with each legacy partner to honor its history, heritage, and identity. The stakeholders, local communities of faith, students, faculty, and administrators of each legacy partner have faithfully pursued their respective missions, and Kairos is committed to honoring that work.

As a result, the support stage of legacy partnership is one that is ongoing. Even after programs, staffing, governance, communication and all of the day-to-day operations are fully integrated, supporting and honoring legacy partners does not end. Because Kairos has pledged to maintain the history, heritage, identity, and brand of each legacy partner, even though new students are enrolled as Kairos students, they are encouraged to maintain a connection to the historic brand of the legacy partner. In some ways, this is like a student in The Wharton School seeing herself as both a student of Wharton and a student of the University of Pennsylvania.

As a community of Jesus followers, Kairos is focused on creating a global network of theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful. Legacy Partnerships create a strong network that can support and leaven this global network.

The current legacy partners in Kairos are BLI School of Ministry, Houston Graduate School of Theology, Evangelical Theological Seminary, Taylor Seminary, and Sioux Falls Seminary.

For more information on the details of Legacy Partnerships, we created a transparency report that can be viewed here.

Join us next week as we look at Integrated Partners!


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