On February 3, 2014, I will begin serving as the 12th President of Sioux Falls Seminary, an evangelical seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota which was founded by the North American Baptist denomination in 1858. Sioux Falls Seminary made an announcement about my appointment this morning, and Northern’s announcement followed soon after. I look forward to what God is going to do in and through the work of the Sioux Falls Seminary.
Anyone who reads what I post on this blog will not be surprised that I am excited about the work of integrated innovation. I think the future of theological education can be very bright if we commit ourselves to a process of integrated innovation focused on outcomes. Theological education plays an important role in the Church and I believe we have the opportunity to build the kingdom by serving, forming, and developing those whom God calls. In the world of theological education, there has been a tendency to define the “call” to ministry as one which focuses primarily on full time ministry as the pastor of a church. Data shows that assumption needs to be revisited. We are training pastors. We are also training and equipping many who never expect to do full time ministry. Now, we have the challenge of reimagining theological education and I am excited about that possibility.
Over my next few posts, I will focus on how “dis-integration” is a root cause for many of the issues we are seeing in theological education (rising costs, the declining status of seminaries, student debt, etc.). This post, however, will get us started by talking briefly about what I believe integration looks like. An affordable, accessible, and relevant system of theological education will require new levels of innovation and integration combined with missional approaches to ministry training. So what does integration look like?
I think integration means simultaneously creating academic programs, financial models, support systems, and administrative structures rather than developing them independently and trying to fit them together later. It means creating a system which cares as much about outcomes as it does about content. It means envisioning new types of faculty, staff, and organizational structures while holding true to the mission and values which have served theological education well for many years. Integration requires having a broad view of ministry training and an expansive view of how people can be trained for ministry. Dan Aleshire, Executive Director of ATS, has talked about how he believes the future of theological education will have “multiple definitions of good.” I believe integration will make that possible. Finally, a wholly integrated system of theological education will use that expansive view of ministry training to find unique ways to fully incorporate the various ministry contexts in which our future (and current) students find themselves.
My hope for the future of theological education, is that we find a way to create an affordable, accessible, and relevant system that fully integrates contextual ministry, outcomes, content, and organizational structures. The result should be a seamless process of spiritual formation, discipleship, academic rigor and hands-on service to the mission of God.