August 15, 2022
by Greg Henson, CEO, Kairos University and President, Sioux Falls Seminary
Over the past several weeks, we have looked at a few questions that are helpful to consider when you begin your journey through Kairos. Today, we are going to capture those questions in one place.
We began by noting that one of the most interesting aspects of this community 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 focused on becoming more aware of the things we were doing as an institution that were unhelpful – even harmful – to those we served. As a result, a journey with Kairos is going to be different than what many people have experienced before.
When starting such a journey, it is helpful to ask why. Why are you here? Why Kairos? Why this program? Another way to put it might be, “What is God doing in your life that brought you to Kairos and how will this journey deepen your relationship with Jesus as you flourish in your vocation? One thing we have learned is that it is important, and helpful, to develop a clear understanding of why you are “here.” By this, we mean that prior to enrolling, or at least before you get too deep in your journey with Kairos, it will be helpful to reflect on why you are engaging in theological education. If your first answer to this question is “I need a degree,” we invite you to take some time to think more deeply about this particular journey. Degrees are important. However, there are schools that have lower tuition than Kairos, even several you can attend for free. There are even other seminaries that offer affordable competency-based degree programs. So why choose Kairos? Why has God led you to any particular program instead of another one?
With a clear understanding of why, you can begin charting your course – that is you will have more clarity on where you are going. When trying to compare the Kairos journey to traditional educational processes, we said that it is a bit more like backpacking through Europe than a pre-arranged bus tour. On a pre-arranged bus tour, you are going to be more passive than active. The tour guide and bus driver have a specific schedule and pre-determined stops along the way, and their goal is to provide the same experience for everyone who comes on the tour – every time. When you are backpacking through Europe, the journey still has particular destinations but the path you take is much more flexible. Among other things, you have the freedom to set the pace, choose which waypoints you might visit along the way to your destination, and consider who might come with you on that journey.
Often, where you are going is informed by where you have been. Take some time to think about what experiences led you to enroll in Kairos, what learning are you bringing in with you, what questions are you bringing in, and what story or stories have been shaping you. Asking questions like these can help you gain clarity on where to begin.
When a student first begins the journey through a program with Kairos, it is often the first time she or he has had the opportunity to set their pace, direction, and approach to learning. In most cases elsewhere, when a student enters a program, she or he is given a list of courses that must be completed in a certain order (e.g., a degree plan), within a particular schedule (e.g., weekly class sessions during a semester), and using a specific modality (e.g., an online or onsite class).
Within Kairos, you have the opportunity to consider an array of options for how you make progress in the program. The pace, style, and organization of your learning journey can be set by you! We call this “student centered.” We have built an educational structure that puts students first. While each program has a defined list of outcomes (i.e., areas of integrated learning in which each student must demonstrate proficiency), how and where you begin, as well as the path you take to develop and demonstrate proficiency, can be defined by you.
While this can be exciting, it can also be a bit intimidating. There is a lot to learn and demonstrate in a degree program. As you start your journey through Kairos, it can be helpful to reflect a bit on where you might start.
Finally, we invite you to think about who and what you want to bring with you on this journey. You have the opportunity to interact with the global Kairos community while also staying focused on your local context. To aid in this process, you have the privilege of inviting mentors to walk with you. Take some time to think about who that might be. Likewise, you have a world of resources to bring with you. Given your answers to the questions about why you are here, where you are going, and where you have been, you will have a picture of what resources might be helpful along the way.
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, financial supporter, student, mentor, or 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 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 the opportunity to follow Jesus as part of the Kairos community.
Kairos is an amazing community of people who call Jesus Lord. We would love to have you join us as we follow Jesus on mission!