Faculty Mentor Spotlight: Janet Stauffer

January 15, 2024



We think relationships are an important aspect of education. That’s why we work with mentor teams, cohorts, and partner organizations. To help you get to know the people who are part of the Kairos community, we spotlight partners, faculty, alumni, students, staff, and board members from time to time. Today we are looking at one of our faculty

Name: Janet Stauffer

Location: Lebanon, PA

Role within Kairos: Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, MFT Program Director, ThD faculty and mentor

Education: PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, specialization in marriage and family therapy; MA in Social Work.

Teaching and Research Interests: Buber’s dialogue and genuine meeting placed in the context of restorative theology addressing trauma and transformation. Intergenerational loyalty dynamics and healing through turning and facing (Contextual Therapy research and practice). Published research in formation of the therapist through education as dialogical engagement.

How to connect with Janet: jstauffer@kairos.edu


We asked Janet a few questions to learn a bit more about her. Here’s what we discovered.

Why are you engaged in the work of theological education?
The mystery of God. Since college days I pursued the intersection of theology and psychology at a time when these disciplines were often siloed, and viewed one another with suspicion if not outright disregard. At that point, I was immersed in the therapy practice of marriage and family, and did not envision myself teaching in a seminary. A series of poignant events intersected such that I decided to enroll in a PhD program with a sense of call to teach MFT at the graduate level. I remember asking God, “But, here I am in the middle of corn fields with no graduate MFT programs in sight. What is this about?” Within two weeks of that prayer, I learned that Evangelical Seminary faculty had just voted to start an MFT program. The seminary was 20 minutes from my home. The call could not have been more clear.

When you are teaching or working as a faculty mentor, what kinds of questions lead the way?
How am I carrying my stone?
What kind of “lived curriculum” am I in this moment?

There is a medieval story of three persons who are each seen carrying a stone up the mountain. The first one was asked, “What are you doing?” “I am carrying a stone,” was the reply. The second stone carrier was asked, “What are you doing?” “I am caring for my family, earning an income.” The third one was asked, “What are you doing?” “I am building a cathedral.”

Details are vital to life. They can also suffocate life. The risk for me in my faculty and mentoring work is to become so cluttered with function, just carrying the stone to get things done that I easily lose the deep attunement and presence to the emerging cathedral to which I bring my stone as an offering.

Mentorship is both giving and receiving. I am not the one merely pouring into the other. Rather, together we are holding a space for something to evolve between us. Katie Breitigan (2023), a ThD grad, calls faculty to create a “lived curriculum,” sharing of our lives, “making the co-learning relationship more personal” (p. 38).

Being both a giver and a receiver is essential to healthy living, and develops character, content, and craft. Receiving from the other with gratitude for them, as well as giving to the other out of one’s personhood grows something through each of us as we live this dynamic in real time. As Teilhard de Chardin (1960) claims, our lives “are ready to be charged with the divine influence, that is to say with a real presence of the incarnate Word” (p. 136). This is my longing, my hope, and the joy of being a mentor. It is the stone I carry with intention of being space for the presence of God in our midst

What rhythms do you like to follow?
Most days begin with 20 minutes of contemplative prayer, and then I listen to the daily lectionary reading on my morning run. I meet twice a month with a small group from the church I attend. We gather in one of our homes around a simple meal, share our lives, and pray together. Silent retreats, whether a day, 3 days, or a week are vital for me to restore and deepen in the presence of God. I listen to podcasts and attend webinars. I value time with spiritual directors, therapists, and wise friends who can assist me in engaging the deeper contours of my life.

When you are not teaching, mentoring, or engaged in some other aspect of your work with Kairos, where might we find you?
I chair the LMC Legacy Foundation that funds projects finding “a better way” in integrative mental health care. I also see a few clients at my therapy practice.

I love being on or near the water. Jim (my spouse) and I canoe or kayak in local places such as the “Swattie” creek, as well as not so local places such as Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada where we pack our gear into the canoe and paddle through the interlocking lakes for several days, camping on the islands at night to the lovely sounds of the loons at sunset, and the howling calls of the wolves in the dark.

One Valentine Day at our home in PA, Jim asked me to go on a short walk with him. I was deep in work at my desk at the moment, could I break away for a bit? He led me to the small creek that runs through the woods where we live. There he had placed a small bench by the creek, a spot for me to retreat, meditate, and restore. A gift that keeps on giving. Playing pickle ball, riding my recumbent bike in warm weather, or cross country skiing in the winter with family or friends are delights in my life as well.

We asked Janet to send us a candid picture of life outside of the classroom. Here’s what she shared with us:


Breitigan, K. (2023). Relationship as pedagogy: Empowering faculty to support student mental health, Growth: The Journal of the Association for Christians in Student Development, 22, Article 3, 30 – 44. Available here.

Teihard de Chardin, P. (1960). The divine milieu. Harper & Row.

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