In our continuing conversation about where we are headed after doing the Kairos Project for two years, we are going to look at the concept of regional cohorts. At its core, the Kairos Project is comprised of a series of on-campus intensives and a series of courses offered through distance education. The value and unique nature of the Kairos Project is not in its base structure. Rather, it rests in the adaptability of the distance education component of the program. Under the direction of faculty, mentor teams work with students to adapt assignments, adjust the order in which students address various topics, and create customized learning experiences that fit within the construct of the predetermined courses.
As the Kairos Project grows, we are beginning to have clusters of students in different regions or near particular cities. In addition, various networks or larger churches are expressing interest in running a group of students through the Kairos Project at one time.
Together, these trends are creating the possibility for regional cohorts. The question before us is, “How might we create regional cohorts of Kairos Project students who can journey together and receive even greater interaction with a community of learning?” That is not to say that the Kairos Project currently doesn’t create a community of learning or that the community doesn’t extend past the intensives. In fact, the learning community it creates and the way that community extends beyond the intensives is one of the great results of the Kairos Project. At the same time, we believe more is possible.
Consider this scenario. There is a group of churches near Seattle, WA, who have a passion for developing leaders and church planters. They believe it is important for the leaders to come from within the church and to be developed in the context of that group of churches. There are good things that the current pastors in those churches can pass on to the leaders they are developing, but they also know that there is value beyond what they can offer. They are reluctant to send these developing leaders away to seminary or even to a nearby seminary because the former requires the students to leave their ministry context and the latter is too rigid in its structure.
In this scenario, the leaders that the group of churches would like to develop could participate in the Kairos Project as it stands now. They could pursue a Master of Divinity while staying in their ministry context, and they could adapt the pathway to the degree to fit their particular needs. What they will miss, however, is the value that can be created through deep interaction with the local network of churches. Our hope is that we can take scenarios such as these and develop a way in which those students can participate in the Kairos Project and also participate in some sort of regional gathering.
You may read this and say, “Schools are already doing this, why are you taking time to think about how it works. This isn’t a new concept.” Yes, regional gatherings or regional campuses are not new. However, we are trying to look past that paradigm and toward one where the regional gathering becomes part of a larger structure or outcome. The gathering is not the end or even a course. Rather, it is meant to be part of an integrated system of learning that builds on the learning that takes place at such gatherings.
If we can think differently about the role that a regional cohort can play in the educational process rather than treating it like a study group, a satellite campus, or even a formation group, we can create a fresh expression of localized and contextualized theological education that fits within the outcome-based paradigm that Sioux Falls Seminary is embracing.
The value that regional cohorts can add to the student experience and to student learning is immense. The challenge before us is to consider how we take this step without assuming that we already how to best take that step.
This is a repost of an article I wrote for Sioux Falls Seminary. The original is available here.