A Mission to the Church, and a Mission of the Church
The Luther House of Study has evolved from a grassroots initiative that began over 10 years ago to a full and vibrant ministry that is recognized regionally for strengthening ministries and equipping people to become pastors. The ministry is anchored in the Lutheran faith and grounded in the foundation of Lutheran education. Since its founding in 2006, Luther House’s mission has been focused on strengthening Lutheran leadership and ministries for the proclamation of the gospel. It does this by serving three communities:
- Future ministry professionals.
- Current ministry professionals.
- Lay members of congregations.
Future Ministry Professionals
The need for a new generation of well-equipped Lutheran leaders is growing. There are dozens of empty pulpits in Lutheran congregations in this region, and a wave of retirements is anticipated in the next five to 10 years. In fact, in many areas of this region more than half of the pastors currently serving in congregations are age 65 or older. At the same time, the past decade has witnessed a steady decline in the number of people entering into ministry.
These demographic and economic realities require a significant overhaul of the approach to delivering theological education. The Luther House of Study, through Sioux Falls Seminary, is pioneering a revolutionary approach to delivering a sound theological education for people entering into congregational ministry. This new approach is called Kairos. It’s an innovative way of delivering an accredited Masters of Divinity degree that is accessible, affordable and relevant. While delivering the same traditional degree pastors have received for generations, Kairos does it in a way that meets students’ needs while greatly reducing the economic and lifestyle burdens of the older approaches.
How so? Instead of charging a set amount per classroom credit, which is how traditional education models work, students pay $300 per month to Sioux Falls Seminary year round. In return for that “subscription fee,” students can take every class offered by the seminary at no additional cost, or they may choose to work through their coursework by reading books and articles independently. Regardless of how students choose to work through the curriculum, each works closely with a mentor team consisting of a Lutheran faculty mentor, a professional ministry mentor (usually a rostered clergy member) and a personal mentor.
Additionally, students are not required to move to Sioux Falls to be educated. With the availability of online classrooms and other such resources, they can stay in their current setting while they receive their education. In fact, one of the requirements of the Kairos track is that students have some type of ministry context in which to practice what they’re learning. This can range from volunteering as a Sunday school teacher to serving as a pastor-in-training in a small congregation—depending on the life experience of the student. This allows people who are being called to ordained ministry but are tied to a ranch or farm, for example, to obtain a traditional Lutheran theological education while living at home. They don’t have to uproot their lives or that of their families to answer the call to ministry.
One of the keys of this approach is its emphasis on pastoral formation—putting solid Lutheran pastors in pulpits. The Kairos participants at Luther House are included in student colleague groups and have much more access to and interaction with a broad support network than in a traditional model of theological education. One of the goals of this Lutheran Kairos track is to help establish the benefits of participating in colleague groups once the students are ordained.
The ministry and outreach of Luther House has exceeded all expectations, growing in its mission of training students to be pastors. This approach to theological education is proving to be quite attractive to students and congregations alike. The number of people entering into the Luther House seminary program has increased sixfold in the past year. This fall, Luther House counts 46 graduate students preparing for ministry with 24 people serving in pulpits across the region.
Current Ministry Professionals
The education process for ministry professionals is not finished simply because one has graduated from seminary. In fact, Luther House recognizes that both pastors and lay ministry professionals need to be nurtured and further equipped for their day-to-day ministries. Therefore, a key component of the Luther House mission is to provide continuing education resources and renewal opportunities.
On a regular basis, Luther House staff offers classes and workshops across the nation. Every month, it meets with more than 60 pastors in South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota to assist them in preparing their sermons for the upcoming weeks. In addition, the Proclamation on the Plains has been a regular event hosted at Sioux Falls Seminary after the Christmas holiday, providing pastors and laypeople an opportunity to explore deep theological topics.
Lay Members and Congregations
Equally important to Luther House’s mission and ministry is nurturing the faith of congregation members. With an eye on this, Luther House launched lutherhouseofstudy.org in early summer 2016. The website houses a large number of congregational resources, and allows the individual or congregation to skim the surface of a variety of topics or dig deeper. For example, there is a series of three-minute videos on Martin
Luther’s catechism (each includes a study guide), and a series of two-minute videos on Luther and
the Reformation. These Reformation videos are organized into topical units that can be used in
congregations interested in everything from who Luther was, what drove him, how the Reformation
message was spread, to some of his basic theological vocabulary and concepts.
For those who want to go a little deeper, there is a seven-week series on Galatians and a nine-session series about Luther’s thought and theology titled “Why I am a Lutheran.” Both of these series include a study guide and other resources to help people explore the topics presented.
Thanks to social media and the internet, these videos have spread across the globe. At last count, people in every U.S. state and in more than 50 countries are watching the videos.
In addition to the video resources, Luther House staff routinely teach and preach in congregations around the region and across the nation.
The Luther House of Study is supported by and receives the majority of its funding from the Lutheran Leadership Foundation, which is housed in the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. The fellowship allows Luther House to provide all of the videos and other congregational resources at no cost. For more information about the foundation, go to lutherhouseofstudy.org/foundation.
Chris Croghan, Director
Chris is driven by the same motives that inspired Luther: a deep seated concern for the proclamation of the Gospel and the care of souls. These motivations inspired Chris to help establish and direct the Luther House of Study.
Trained as a Reformation scholar specializing in the life and teachings of Martin Luther, pastoral ministry remains central to Chris’ vocational identity. After graduating from Augustana College, Chris earned his M.Div. and was ordained in 1995. He returned to Luther Seminary five years later and was granted a Ph.D. in church history.
Chris has been teaching college and seminary students since 2004, with his primary emphasis being nurturing faith and preparing pastors.
As the Director of the Luther House of Study, Chris has worked to make theological education more accessible and affordable while providing sound theological content.
You may contact Chris at 605-274-5488 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Stenson, Associate Director
What do corporate law, family and proclaiming the gospel have in common? Ask Sarah Stenson, and she will tell you each of these things is something for which she has a deep passion.
After graduating from Luther College, Sarah attended the University of Minnesota Law School and graduated with a J.D. in 1992. She worked as a corporate attorney at Honeywell Inc. and Kmart Corp. headquarters before becoming the stay-at-home mother of two children.
As the Associate Director of the Luther House of Study, Sarah has worked at LHOS from its inception - teaching in classrooms, congregations, and working to nurture faith and prepare pastors.
You may contact Sarah at 605-274-5488 or email email@example.com.