Sioux Falls Seminary
Nathan Hitchcock, associate professor of Church History and Theology
Shanda Stricherz, chief creative officer
Schools within the Oikonomia Network often think training in financial stewardship is important. But how do they guarantee that graduates leave with a godly orientation to money? Sioux Falls Seminary has taken measures over the past year to make sure their MDiv students are learning and demonstrating such values.
Sioux Falls Seminary is in its third year of the Kairos Project, an outcome-based, alternative educational track that facilitates flexible learning through contextually-integrated educational moments. It is designed for individuals who are actively engaged in Christian ministry. Many of the MDiv students admitted to the Kairos Project already serve as organizational leaders, even lead pastors. Accordingly, they often have to oversee significant program funds in addition to their personal finances. The seminary feels it is imperative for such students to have a kingdom perspective on financial matters.
In the past, Sioux Falls Seminary has offered courses on stewardship, including an award-winning class called Faith, Business, and Money. Yet not all MDiv students received the benefits of taking these elective courses. Through the Kairos Project, many key content points and requirements are now grafted into the core curriculum.
“It can be totally worthwhile to offer a stand-alone course on financial stewardship,” said President Greg Henson. “But we feel even better about integrating this vital topic into the whole program.”
This year, Sioux Falls Seminary made curricular changes to ensure students were acquiring and living out biblical principles of stewardship. The Kairos Project is set up so that a student pursues various targets (i.e., competencies) within a program.
The seminary named nine financial stewardship targets for each MDiv student:
- Demonstrate understanding of biblical principles regarding stewardship;
- Show understanding of the foundational ideas of stewardly fundraising;
- Demonstrate an ability to reflect critically on the uses of money;
- Show familiarity with clergy tax laws;
- Show an ability to make a realistic plan for one’s personal finances;
- Show evidence of having a responsible plan for retirement;
- Demonstrate an ability to form a support network;
- Show an ability to teach biblical stewardship to others;
- Show an ability to disciple others toward biblical generosity.
Each target comes with a prescribed assignment to demonstrate proficiency. For example, “Show an ability to make a realistic plan for one’s personal finances” comes with an assignment that asks the student to delineate a personal budget, demonstrate that he or she is living within their means, and, if in debt, produce a reasonable plan for getting out of it. A mentor team evaluates a student’s work and determines whether he or she has achieved the target.
Key to the curriculum’s stewardship emphasis is the development of a Ministry Support Network. Students gather a team of twelve people who support them through prayer and funds. A seminary staff person helps each seminarian get started on the Ministry Support Network process. Once completed, students maintain the network, requiring them to practice and communicate stewardship principles while in seminary. The network turns ideas into action.
Training in financial stewardship requires good resources. Sioux Falls Seminary’s association with Oikonomia Network has led to the development of various articles, books and videos. The seminary now has an abundance of resources about money and what it means to live as a trustee of God’s gifts.