Foundations and Practices of Collaboration: Shared Values and Practices
July 19, 2021
by Greg Henson, President, Sioux Falls Seminary; David Williams, President, Taylor Seminary; and Shanda Stricherz, Chief Creative Officer, Sioux Falls Seminary
Last week, we began our conversation on the foundations and practices of collaboration by looking at how dis-integration within an organization creates a barrier to collaboration and partnership. If an organization is not designed to practice holistic integration (i.e., if it isn’t collaborating well inside its own walls), it will struggle to work with anyone outside of its walls. Today, we continue to look at the foundations and practices of collaboration by highlighting the shared practices that undergird all of our work within Kairos. These practices also shape our collaboration with every partner organization. Stating it another way, all members of the Kairos community (i.e., students, partners, mentors, faculty, staff, board members, etc.) are invited to engage in these practices as they participate in the work God is doing in and through Kairos. We have found these practices to be mutually reinforcing and helpful in the spiritual discipline of “letting things go.”
Kairos recognizes that faithful values and practices must reinforce each other. We are committed to living out our values in a dynamic way as we fulfill our mission under the leading of God’s Spirit—actively balancing values that may, at times, compete. The following values and practices inform our work on a daily basis, and members of this community support and affirm these values and engage in them as practices.
People and relationships are at the core of everything we do. In order to serve people well, we must first be present with them. As a result, we must place relationships above roles or hierarchy. We are present with one another as peers or sojourners.
All members of the Kairos community must place trust in God, be rooted in prayer, and participate in the kingdom mission. We must remain faithful to biblical teaching, the long wisdom of orthodox Christian faith, and the rich heritage of God’s work in and through the Body of Christ.
For theological education and integrated counseling to remain affordable, we must build and maintain nimble, low-cost, and high-quality operations without sacrificing relationality.
Extending programs and services to those God entrusts to our care, regardless of where God has placed them or called them to serve, enables us to meet people where they are. We value a range of offerings, from high-level academic study to certificate-level education and from long-term therapy to one-time conversations that bring healing and hope.
The context of the student and/or the client is valued immensely. We recognize the impact that context has on how to structure pathways of development for students and clients.
Partnerships and Collaboration
We work together with other followers of Jesus because kingdom partnership and collaboration are essential aspects of Christian community. Competition has no place in the Kingdom of God. Members of this community do not worry about maintaining a competitive advantage or institutional growth at the expense of relationships. By collaborating and sharing the resources God has entrusted to us with others, we extend the reach and impact of our work. Rather than creating “walled-off” systems that we control, we create a collaborative control-sharing environment that wisely stewards God’s resources.
Placing our focus on outcomes and outcome assessment creates more naturally-integrative and experiential learning experiences for students. This allows us to focus on curating resources, facilitating learning, and becoming experts at outcome assessment. This means that the educational journey is measured by movement toward stated outcomes rather than by the accumulation of earned credits. While partner organizations may use the credit hour for a variety of purposes, we are committed to creating ways to reduce the power of the credit hour in measuring and documenting learning.
Technology is an important tool in the development of people and in the operational structures of institutions. Members of the community are always looking for ways to enhance and optimize processes and experiences through the use of technology. An efficient, reliable, and adaptive technological system enables us to serve people well and be present with them.
Innovation and Change
We embrace and encourage continual change, innovation, and the desire to experiment. We recognize the need for continued innovation and each of us has the opportunity to learn from one another along the way. This focus enables the community to be nimble and find new ways to adapt to the needs of students and clients, changes in our culture, and the ever-changing landscape of theological education. As a result, we engage in an ongoing process of continuous improvement which requires ongoing change, development, and assessment. This means all of us should expect change to take place.
Unity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Unity in the context of diversity is not sameness. We are not striving to develop a superficially "diverse" community where everyone actually thinks or acts the same way. Rather, we are welcoming the mosaic beauty of the body of Christ. We practice inclusion because it raises voices that have long been diminished and recognizes that unity is found in the bond of Christ rather than in our abstracted theology or policies. Theology is important. Following Jesus is important. The unshakeable truth of God's Word is essential. The Gospel is to be proclaimed in Jerusalem, Judea, and the ends of the earth. We practice inclusion because the Spirit uses it to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to what God is doing in our midst and through the body of Christ around the world—and in our neighborhoods.
In order to work together, we must be willing to openly share information with one another. What one learns is shared freely. We desire to maintain open and ongoing dialogue. Transparency across the entire community is valued and upheld through open communication and an emphasis on relationships.
Everything we have belongs to God, and it is our job to steward it faithfully. We
strive to optimize the gifts, resources, and people that God has entrusted to us and move forward together under the direction of the Spirit.
The Local Church
Theological education flows from the local church rather than being something handed down to it. Instead of creating a bridge between the academy and the church, Kairos seeks to integrate the two in new and life-giving ways so that both are edified in the process.
Discipleship is not something that happens strictly in a linear fashion, meaning theological education must find ways to embrace the inherently organic nature of discipleship. At its core, theological education is an intense journey of discipleship and must be equally organic. We seek to walk alongside followers of Jesus as we discern the leading of the Spirit together.
All who are part of Kairos practice a posture of humility. While one may hold particular theological views and may seek to work within particular contexts or people groups (which is very important), all members of the community practice theological and communal hospitality while encouraging those they serve to do the same.
Join us next week as we take a closer look at partnership and collaboration by discussing our framework for partnerships and collaboration. See you then!