10 Year Stewardship Report: Meeting You Where You Are…Offering Hope

July 1, 2024

by Greg Henson, CEO Kairos University; President of Sioux Falls Seminary


In 1991, the late Dr. Ernie Zimbelman donated his counseling practice to Kairos University (which was North American Baptist Seminary at the time). Nearly 35 years later, that small practice has grown into one of the largest outpatient mental health networks in the region. Later in this series of blog posts about the past decade, we will dive more deeply into the transformation we have seen in this area of our work. Today our focus is on a key phrase we began using in 2014.

In 2014, as the seminary was reimagining what it meant to steward systems of theological education and integrated counseling that were affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful, our team of therapists was imagining creative ways to serve a growing number of clients. We launched a Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic to serve children and families and a Community Counseling Clinic to serve people who were under or uninsured. The team considered several ways to describe what we do in the area of clinical mental health and eventually landed on the phrase, “Meeting you where you are…offering hope.”

While only a few short words, the concepts embedded within the phrase have a deep impact on how an organization might go about the work of theological education and integrated counseling. When an organization envisions “meeting you where you are” it often needs to reconsider how its needs, preferences, and long-held assumptions come to bear on its work. No longer can the institution see itself as the center of what it does. Rather, to walk alongside a student, client, or partner organization—the institution must stop placing itself at the center of the equation.

We might suggest that stewardship invites us to do the same thing. As stewards of God’s abundant blessings, we are “sent ones” who are called to put God’s resources to work in light of God’s mission in the world. It is not our mission that we are called to advance. We have the blessing of participating in the Grand Narrative of God’s reconciliation of the world through Jesus by the power of the Spirit. When we set aside the idols we call institutions, we are freed to meet people where they are—to help them grow where God planted them. Moreover, we have the privilege of joining with the Body of Christ! We don’t have to do this work alone.

When we meet people where they are, we take an active listening posture—a posture of humility that assumes we must first hear and understand those God places in our care. Institutions often struggle with this approach because our goals as institutions are often tied to numerical growth and long-term survival. The past ten years of stewardship at Kairos University have taken a different approach. In order to meet people where they are, we had to first lay down at the foot of the cross our pride, our assumptions about organizations, and our desire for growth. In place of those, we embraced obedience as our definition of success and stewardship as our guiding operational principle. In doing so, we quickly learned that stewardship in the Kingdom of God requires opening our eyes to the ways God has blessed the Body of Christ. By working with others, God’s resources can be shared across the Body of Christ rather than hoarded within one institution. For Sioux Falls Seminary, that partnership with the Body of Christ began by reconnecting to our roots within the North American Baptist Conference. The words of a late nineteenth century  theologian gave us a glimpse of the humility that it takes for a theological institution to embrace the idea of meeting people where they are.

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