July 4, 2022
by Greg Henson, CEO, Kairos University and President, Sioux Falls Seminary
Over the past ten years, Kairos has grown from a small group of students and faculty who were wondering if there might be a different way to think about theological education into a global community of over 4,000 people on six different continents.
We are a community that speaks dozens of languages, faithfully follows Jesus Christ in a multitude of cultures and contexts, and seeks to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed. The community has become a global network with churches, ministries, businesses, schools, denominations, mental health clinics, and more all working together to develop a system of theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful.
As someone who has been on this journey from the beginning, one of the aspects of this community that is most interesting to me is how it has grown organically. We did not set out to create a global network with thousands of people around the world coming together to follow Jesus. Quite the opposite. We set out to quietly experiment with a revolutionary approach to theological education. One that would require us to let go of our long-held methods of teaching and structuring educational journeys.
At the heart of this experiment was a deep desire to place Jesus at the center of our work – not the institution. By focusing on stewarding followers of Jesus, we felt we should become more aware of the things we were doing as an institution that were unhelpful – even harmful – to those we served.
Along the way, we learned many things. For example, we learned that most of the assumptions we tend to make as modern “institutions of higher education” needed to be reconsidered. Everything from the things taking place in a classroom to the sidewalks outside the building needed to be placed under the microscope. In practice, this meant we needed to “fix something every day” as one of our team members often says. We also learned that the interaction between faculty and students is vital. If we were to adhere to the “faithful” part of creating a system that is “affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful,” we could not diminish the importance of student and faculty interactions.
At the same time, however, we discerned a need to more highly value other aspects of a student’s journey. We needed to create space for the student’s local community of faith to be more engaged, and we needed to empower students to recognize the important formation that happens outside of the classroom. We also learned that we needed to create ways for “credit hours” and “courses” and “tuition” to be something that served, or were submitted to, the journey of discipleship. That is to say, we needed to rethink the structures and processes by which each of these were part of a student’s journey.
Over the course of nearly 10 years of following the leading of Spirit down this path we now call Kairos, we have changed nearly everything. Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t changed is that the bookshelves that were in my office when I first arrived are still there. Everything else has changed.
Well, as we have grown over the years, more and more people are discovering Kairos because it has appeared in an online search or because someone mentioned it in passing (compared to before when most heard about us from someone they know and trust). In practice, this means that when many people enroll, they don’t know too much about how or why Kairos works. Perhaps this is true about you but maybe it isn’t. Either way, I think you might find the series of blog posts we are going to share over the next few weeks quite helpful. We are going to highlight a series of questions that new students might want to consider as they begin their program with Kairos or perhaps these are good questions to consider before enrolling in any program.
Over the last number of years, I think there is one thing that has been true for everyone who has become part of the community. Whether you are a partner organization, student, mentor, member of the faculty, staff, or board, the common theme is that everyone should assume their experience in Kairos will be very different from anything they have experienced before. For some, this is invigorating. For others, this can sound daunting.
Whether you are a student who is invigorated by the possibility of joining a revolution in theological education or someone that is a bit intimidated by the idea that your educational journey will be more organic than precise, I think you will appreciate this blog series. Our goal is to help you gain a deeper picture of what it means to invite Kairos to walk with you as you follow Jesus and flourish in your vocation. That means we will suggest a few questions to consider when beginning your program or discerning if Kairos is right for you. It also means we will provide a few resources to help students make progress in their program.
Join us for this conversation over the next few weeks. If you have questions you’d like us to consider or feedback you’d like to give, feel free to share it with us by sending an email to [email protected].