A little over two years ago, as I began in my role as President at Sioux Falls Seminary, we embarked on an intriguing journey as we launched a new educational paradigm called the Kairos Project. In my first post about the program, I talked about our desire to shift the focus of theological education.
The Kairos Project was to be a research project in which we invited students to participate in a re-imagined system of theological education that shifted the focus of learning from chronos to karios; to shift the focus from a step-by-step process rooted in a schedule to moments in time that “naturally encourage integrated learning.”
We are now two years into this research project and are excited to provide a glimpse of the results thus far, the learning we have experienced, and the plans going forward. Over the next several weeks, therefore, I will touch on each of those areas by sharing a few specific examples. To put it simply, the Kairos Project has been an overwhelming success both in how it has been received by students, churches, and denominations and in how it has taught us many things that we need to improve.
To get started, allow me to share, again, the vision behind this project. Next week, I will dive into a few results.
It began by thinking about how we might think differently about theological education. There are two words for time in Greek. The first, chronos, refers to chronological time – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, etc. The second, kairos, refers to a specific moment in time or a specific time in which an activity or incident occurs.
For many years, the primary method of theological education has been based on the “chronos” understanding of time. Students progress chronologically through a specific set of courses over a certain number of years and, provided they pass the courses, receive a degree at the end.
Unfortunately, this model has, in many instances, developed a system of theological education that is prohibitively expensive, lacks integration, and is built around content instead of outcomes. Chronological time spent in class and the grades received in that class have been used as the primary measurement of student learning.
The vision was to create a system of theological education that shifted the focus from chronos to kairos. In this system, students would be fully engaged because learning would be built around moments in time that naturally encourage integrated learning. In addition, students would be held accountable to specific outcomes rather than to the chronological progression through a set of courses. To support this process, each student would journey through his or her program with a group of three mentors walking alongside him or her.
After two years of implementing this vision, we have landed on the following as a short description of the Kairos Project:
The Kairos Project is an alternative educational track that facilitates flexible learning through contextually-integrated educational moments and adaptable assignments. Student participants move toward outcome-based Christian maturity under the supervision of a mentor team, by the direction of faculty, and through participation in a cohort-based community of learning.
The Kairos Projejct is offered within the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Leadership, and Master of Arts (Bible and Theology) programs. Our vision for the future of theological education remains creating an integrated system of theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful. Thus far, the Kairos Project has shown great promise through the fact that students are experiencing exactly that type of theological education.
I am excited to see what God has in store as we continue this project. Please join check back in over the next few weeks as I share results, learning, and expand on some ideas for the future. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well!