In March 2020, Sioux Falls and Taylor Seminaries announced a growing partnership between the two institutions. Functioning as one seminary, the union of schools is leveraging the Kairos Project to make theological education more affordable, accessible, and relevant while remaining faithful to the transformational essence of theological education and the unshakeable truth of God’s Word.
With the advent of the current pandemic, the “accessibility” and “affordability” aspects of the Kairos Project have become even more important.
The seminaries have been able to offer students financial support to offset a range of challenges as a result of the pandemic. Both US and Canadian students have been helped. In addition, the fact that tuition for Kairos is only $300 a month USD and $400 a month CAD—rather than the average of $1,100 USD for seminaries in North America—means that tuition has not been as much of a burden for Kairos students than it has been for students at other schools.
Accessibility became hyper-relevant in April and August when Kairos Gatherings were offered. These gatherings provide Kairos students and mentors the opportunity to gather in one place for a week of learning, encouragement, and theological reflection. Up until March 2020, these gatherings had been hosted on campus in either Sioux Falls, South Dakota, or Edmonton, Alberta. However, with restrictions on large group events and travel, the April and August gatherings were instead facilitated using Zoom.
While not as originally intended, the gatherings exceeded expectations and created some unique opportunities.
More people could attend. The gathering in August had about 300 participants from ten countries and many states and provinces throughout the US and Canada—nearly twice as many participants than at past on-campus gatherings. By hosting the gathering via Zoom, people normally not able to travel to a campus due to family, ministry, or vocational reasons were fully able to participate. In the words of one such student, “I have never been able to participate in a gathering until now. I am so grateful to have this opportunity. This week was transformational.”
Workshops could be more relevant. Because everyone was on Zoom, the list of possible workshop facilitators expanded exponentially. As a result, Cam Roxburgh, VP of Missional Initiatives, led a workshop on postures and practices for being a good neighbor, and Wayne Stapleton, VP of Cross-Cultural Engagement, led one on racial reconciliation. Students appreciated the opportunity to learn from Cam, Wayne, and the other presenters who were able to join from a distance.
There was higher NAB engagement. With the burden of travel diminished, the number of North American Baptist participants also rose. Individuals in the NAB family participated from the west coast to the east coast and from Canada to Brazil! In fact, the number of NAB students engaged in theological education at Taylor or Sioux Falls has more than doubled since the Kairos Project began.
It created new opportunities for partnership. Virtual Kairos gatherings are helping Taylor and Sioux Falls more closely work with a wider array of ministry partners. For example, in August the schools paired up with Global Trust Partners (gtp.org) to offer a plenary session and several workshops focused on whole-life stewardship.
Taylor and Sioux Falls are excited about what God has taught them through the April and August gatherings and are thankful for the growing opportunities to partner with the NAB family.