Lay persons face the difficult and often subtle task of interpreting the richness of the church’s faith in a complex and confusing world. They need a theological education which supports their faith and also teaches them to express that faith in day-to-day events. As the emphasis on lay ministry has grown, EfM has come to play an important role by providing a program that develops an informed and knowledgeable laity.
The EfM program is preparation for the ministry to which we all are called. It is that vocation for which we pray at the end of the Eucharist: “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”
The Seminar Group
The seminar group is the nucleus of the Education for Ministry program. A group consists of 6 to 12 participants and a trained mentor who meet weekly over the course of a nine-month academic year. These meetings are usually from two and a half to three hours in length.
Through study, prayer, and reflection, EfM groups move toward a new understanding of the fullness of God’s kingdom. Participants are given weekly assignments to study with the help of resource guides. Participants are responsible for setting their own learning goals. They spend between two and four hours in study and preparation each week. In the seminars members have an opportunity to share their insights and discoveries as well as to discuss questions which the study materials raise for them.
More important is the development of skills in theological reflection. The goal is to learn to think theologically. By examining their own beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, participants can learn what it means to be effective ministers in the world. In coming to terms with the notion that everything we do has potential for manifesting the love of Christ, we discover that our ministry is at hand wherever we turn.
The seminar is supported by a life of prayer and regular worship. EfM groups are encouraged to develop a pattern of worship appropriate to their situations. Liturgical materials are furnished with the course materials.
The Role of the Mentor
Contents of the Four Years
Participants in the EfM program study the entire sweep of the Christian tradition from the earliest period to the present. Participants learn the disciplines of biblical exegesis and interpretation, systematic theology, church history, ethics, liturgics, and ascetical theology. The traditional content is not studied in a vacuum. Participants belong to small “communities of learning” in which the events of each person’s life may be examined in the light of the materials being studied. While the course materials provide substantial academic content, the focus of the program is on life as ministry and understanding that ministry. EfM provides Christians with that basic skill which is the foundation of all Christian ministries – theological reflection. In doing this, participants sharpen their skills of personal and cultural assessment and enhance abilities to be effective in a variety of ministries.
Comments about EfM
“This sort of Bible Study and discussion seminar is unique. It has given me the background to feel confident in my faith, talk about it with others, and figure out what my individual ministry can be – I am discerning how I can be the “hands” and “heart” of God in the community.”—EfM Participant at Christ Church
“EFM participation has deepened my faith and is positively life affirming…an ongoing spiritual journey fueled by excellent study materials, books, discussion and exercises AND the sacred trust that grows between mentors and participants”. —EfM Participant at Christ Church