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Education For Ministry: Fertile Ground to Grow Your Faith

“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” (Baptismal Covenant, BCP 304).

Every baptized Christian is called to ministry.  What is yours?  Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee) that provides the foundational education to assist you in discerning and carrying out your ministry.  Like the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19), we need fertile soil to grow.  EfM is the soil and we are the seeds.  Learning scripture, church history, and theology is the light shining on the soil, warming it so the seed can sprout.

The EfM program develops an informed and knowledgeable laity through a series of four, one-year seminars.  A small group seminar is the nucleus of the EfM program (maximum of 12 participants plus one or two mentors).  All four years run concurrently in the same seminar.  In year one, participants academic study focuses on the Hebrew Bible; year two on the New Testament; year three is church history; year four wraps it all together with theology.  Additionally, there are a couple interlude periods when all four years will read from the same material which is linked to that year’s theme.  Each year is built around a theme, which rotates on a four-year cycle.  Themes include Living Faithfully in Your World (2021-22), Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World (2022-2023), and Living as Spiritually Mature Christians (2023-24).  The theme for next year (2024-25) is Living Into the Journey with God.  Groups meet for 36 weeks, generally from around mid-September through mid-June.  Days of the week and times vary, but sessions normally last two-and-a-half to three hours and will include time for fellowship (possibly over a meal depending upon the group), discussion around our weekly studies, and theological reflection.  Participants should expect to spend on average between two to four hours weekly preparing for the seminars.

Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors who serve as enablers and administrators.  Mentors are not teachers who impart information to a class in the traditional sense.  Rather, they manage the group dynamics, guide the discussion of lessons and theological reflections, and coordinate administration with Sewanee.  The role of the teacher is engineered into the program materials and is also heavily shaped by your fellow participants.  Bringing the light of what we learn to share in an intimate group setting each week allows for insights and growth — new affirmations and understandings — that can sustain and support us in our lives as Christians living day-to-day in the world while simultaneously teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our personal ministries.

EfM is not a program for ordination.  It is a series of lay education seminars conducted in a small, tight-knit community.  Neither is EfM simply Bible study.  While the readings during the first two years are centered on the Bible, equally important is the development of skills in theological reflection. Our academic readings are the foundations upon which we can learn the spiritual discipline of theological reflection and personal spiritual growth. In learning to think theologically, we examine our beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, making us more effective ministers in the world.

Finally, EfM is not for everybody.  While it is easier to think of EfM as four one-year units rather than a continuous four-year program…it is nevertheless a significant commitment.  It is important that potential participants seriously consider whether they will have the time to devote to the program.  As previously noted, participants need to be able to commit to regular attendance and active participation which should include several hours of preparation weekly.  The group relies on each member being active to achieve its full potential.  Absences diminish that potential.  Participants must also commit to developing and maintaining a healthy group dynamic that values a diversity of opinions and respecting the dignity of every human being.

For the interested or just curious, visit the EfM web site, where you’ll find lots of information, including sample lessons, at https://theology.sewanee.edu/education-for-ministry/.  You can also talk with your local mentor (contact information noted below) or the EfM Diocesan Coordinator, Mark Patzman (efm.edsd@outlook.com).

Texts (2023-2024)

Year 1 the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) Various
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible: Feminist & Intersectional Perspectives

John J. Collins

Gale Yee (ed)


Year 2 the New Testament Various
Introducing the New Testament

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and

The Scandal of the Jewish Jesus

Mark Allan Powell

Amy-Jill Levine

Year 3 Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years Diarmaid MacCulloch
Year 4 Theology: A Very Brief Introduction David Ford
Mysteries of Faith Mark McIntosh
The Christian Moral Life Timothy F. Sedgewick
My Neighbor’s Faith Peace, Rose, and Mobley
Interlude 1 Jesus and the Disinherited Howard Thurman
Interlude 2 The Four Vision Quests of Jesus Steven Charleston


Active EfM Groups in the Diocese of San Diego


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