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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 that fertile soil and we are the mustard seeds.  Learning scriptures, church history, and theology is the light shining on the soil, warming it so the seed will 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).  Likened to the original house churches of the first century, our groups conduct all four years 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 of 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 cyclically every four years.  Themes include: Living Faithfully in Your World (2017-18), Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World (2018-19), and Living as Spiritually Mature Christians (2019-20).  The theme for next year will be 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 the 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.  Instead, they manage the group dynamics, guide the discussion of lessons and theological reflections, and administer logistics 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 amongst a small, tight-knit community.  Neither is EfM simply a Bible study.  While the readings during the first two years are centered on the Bible, equally important is understanding history and theology, and the development of skills in theological reflection.  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 may be 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 will 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 while respecting the dignity of every human being.

For the interested or just curious, talk to one of the experienced EfM folks or email the EfM Diocesan Coordinator, Mark Patzman (efm.edsd@outlook.com), or visit the EfM web site at www.efm.sewanee.edu.  There you’ll find lots of information, including sample lessons.

Texts (2020-2021)

Year 1 The Bible (the Hebrew Bible)
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible: Feminist & Intersectional


John J. Collins

Gale Yee (ed)


Year 2 The Bible (the New Testament)
Introducing the New Testament Mark Allan Powell
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 The Dream of God Verna Dozier
Interlude 2 The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline,

     and New Hope for Beloved Community

Stephanie Spellers



Active EfM Groups in the Diocese of San Diego


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