ON at Talbot School of Theology (Biola University)
Helen Mitchell, Director of the Kern Regional Hub
Scott Rae, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics
The Talbot School of Theology at Biola University has been a part of the Oikonomia Network since the beginning in January 2012. In February 2014, Biola launched the Kern Regional Hub at Talbot in cooperation with the Kern Pastors Network (KPN). This new regional hub reaches into the community to serve the Southern California region of the KPN, as well as Talbot alumni, churches, and pastors in the Southern California region. The hub will raise awareness and understanding of faith, work, and economics, and equip local churches to help congregations effectively and practically live out whole-life discipleship.
This initiative will build upon a foundation of knowledge at the Talbot School of Theology, as well as the hub director’s nine years of experience building Saddleback@Work at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. – a workplace ministry discipling people in their work lives. The hub will help local Southern California churches develop plans and strategies to integrate faith, work, and economics in their church cultures, and develop ministries that intentionally support their congregations in all vocations. This new initiative will bring forth tools, resources, articles, preaching materials, seminars, and strategies for the local church.
To measure progress, assess understanding, and gain insight into strategy development, we have conducted a survey of the Southern California Kern Pastors Network and students in Talbot’s January Church and Society class. The first resource the hub will develop is a video on vocational health. The video will define vocational health as living a life of worship in our work, and reflecting Christ in our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, regardless of the circumstances or levels of success in which we find ourselves.
Collaboration is a key value undergirding this new initiative. By working in partnership with existing Oikonomia Network programs at Talbot Theological Seminary, the Southern California Kern Pastors Network, and churches in Southern California, this new initiative is launching with a network of support and commitment.
ON at Sioux Falls Seminary
Nathan Hitchcock, Assistant Professor of Church History and Theology
Veronica Fischer, Student
Carol Woltjer, Director of Current Gifts and Grants
Sioux Falls Seminary is striving to forge new paths for the Oikonomia Network in the area of curricular integration. Although we started with just one class, we have expanded our repertoire to offer multiple courses, and are now launching an initiative that we hope will reach almost every class in the seminary.
One of our first initiatives in the Oikonomia Network was to launch a class on Faith, Business, and Money. The class was designed to be a primer in faith and economics, surveying the Old and New Testament, contemporary economics, the Economic Wisdom Project, and much more. This spring we are offering it a third time.
While much of the core content remains the same, the class has evolved in two key respects: its built-in segues to other programming and its level of faculty collaboration. Faith, Business, and Money is being redesigned to serve as a better launch pad into other faith and economics programming. We decided to integrate our new incubator program, which helps students nurture entrepreneurial enterprises, into the class itself. Each student is now required, over the course of four weeks, to design an innovative business plan to address a concrete community need in a biblically informed way. The incubator element segues nicely into summer incubator events and a fall class that discusses Christian business innovation.
Sioux Falls Seminary is also growing the role of Faith, Business, and Money as a nexus for faculty collaboration. The first two times the class was offered, it was co-taught by six and seven professors respectively; that number is now up to 11. Several sessions are team-taught, and one is led by a panel. Whether through formal lunches, informal meetings, or in-class activities, professors have a good excuse to work on a common project. Because we found that professors’ different virtual-classroom formatting and rubrics complicated the learning process for students, one professor now takes the lead to standardize administration and grading.
In addition to the collaboration benefits that have arisen, Faith, Business, and Money, provides a natural stepping stone into a faculty curriculum review. This initiative provides instructors with curricular development funding and books as they examine the content of all their classes, looking for existing and potential intersections of faith and economics. With the broad cooperation and involvement our program has nurtured, we are hoping to reach most, if not all, faculty at our school with this opportunity.