While the primary focus of today’s sessions at the Oikonomia Network retreat revolved around the state of theological education, there were moments of interaction about faith and work among the participants. One of the best aspects of the day were short sessions with current colleagues as we heard and discussed in small groups some of the challenges and best practices in fostering a environment at seminaries that supported faith at work. The themes included introducing administrative change in the institution, soliciting faculty awareness and support, encouraging ongoing research and modeling good practices around coursework with faith and work.
- We need to convince the institution at strategic level that the need to integrate faith and work remains central to theological education
- We have to demonstrate the value of faith and work education since it prepares pastors to meaningfully connect faith and the workplace for laity
- When nurturing faith and work conversations in the seminary it is best to focus on “internal” partners through creating a committee to work on issues in the institution
- It helps to look at the research interests of faculty and allow them to make the connection to work/economics from within their field
- It helps to connect the idea of work to whole life discipleship rather than treat it in isolation, particularly in dealing with constituencies
- Institutions respond to faith and work since they are feeling the pressure of managing student debt but it is more important to connect the theme to the mission of the institution as it seeks to be both faithful and relevant
- Technology is something we cannot avoid, but it does not always solve problems. We have to deal with the inevitable cost of changing technology yet its ubiquitous influence in student culture
- It helps to identify faculty “champions” when encouraging faith and work integration
- You should not overreach at the beginning of a new initiative
- Often faculty embrace the issues of faith and work when you start with a problem (such at the complexity of dealing with poverty)
- Conversations among business leaders, lead faculty and students help when the effort remains anchored in hospitality (meals) and careful preparation of all parties beforehand.
- Often constituencies recognize that theological institutions remain the best broker/catalyst for what is going on at the largest level of cultural conversation, even if the same constituencies do not always think of the institution as naturally adept with a specific, local problem
- Help institutions realize that the workplace, not the local congregation, may be the primary crucible for shaping spirituality.
- Sometimes it is easier to look for informal efforts at faith and work rather than creating formal structures, such co-curricular exploration may unveil “low-lying fruit” that resource the conversation
- It helps to have specific themes to guide initial faculty conversation around faith and work (addressing global poverty, learning about the world of commerce/business, valuing work & supporting the church)
- With seminary initiatives we do need to be familiar with the concerns of the constituencies and need to demonstrate application and connection to particular insights for the sake of the church
- Collecting testimonies and help of influencers encourages ongoing engagement with faith and work initiatives
Actually there were more ideas. Perhaps the greatest lesson learned entailed our awareness of the progress made in this effort by colleagues working in the Oikonomia Network. A great set of conversations.