Letter From Susan: Education For Ministry

Are you looking to deepen your faith? Do you want to know more about the Bible, Christian Tradition, and Church History? Are you hoping to understand how your personal experiences and beliefs bring you closer to God and God’s people?

If your answer is “yes,” EfM (Education for Ministry) may be for you.

EfM is a four-year Christian Formation program founded and administered through the School of Theology of the University of the South at Sewanee.

The seminar group is the nucleus of the Education for Ministry program. A group consists of six to twelve 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 studyprayer, and reflection, EfM groups move toward a new understanding of the fullness of God’s kingdom. This process can be illustrated by a two-rail fence. One rail is the Christian tradition. The other is the collective experience of the group’s members. The rails are linked by fence posts which represent the seminar sessions where life and study meet. The fence is grounded in the soil of regular worship which is vital to the life of the group.

Participants are given weekly assignments to study with the help of the EfM Reading and Reflection Guide. Participants are responsible for setting their own learning goals. They spend between two and four hours in study and preparation each week. In the seminar participants are invited to share their insights and discoveries as well as to discuss questions the study materials raise for them. Through discussion and guided reflection, the seminars furnish an opportunity to deepen understanding of the reading materials.

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.

Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors trained by Education for Ministry who serve as guides and administrators. They are not teachers in the traditional sense and are not tasked with imparting information about the Christian tradition or the contents of study. The role of the teacher is built into the program materials. A mentor is an enabler rather than an informer. Mentors may be lay or ordained persons.

During a weekly seminar, the group builds an intentional faith-seeking small group by doing these things:

  • Beginning the evening with sharing a meal together
  • Check-in – how has the group encountered and responded to God since the last seminar
  • Worship – participants lead worship
  • Reflect theologically (TR) – after agreeing upon a shared focus, the group examines tradition and culture, paired with experiences and beliefs, concluding with implications for action
  • Study coursework – participants discuss insights, challenges, “aha” moments of assigned readings
  • Hospitality – the group spends time in fellowship.


Year One: Two texts

  • A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 3rd ed. by John J. Collins
  • The Hebrew Bible: Feminist and Intersectional Perspectivesedited by Gale Yee

Year Two: Two texts

  • Introducing the New Testament, 2nd ed. by Mark Allan Powell
  • What Are Biblical Values?: What the Bible Says on Key Ethical Issues by John J. Collins

Year Three: One text

  • Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Year Four: Four texts

  • Theology: A Very Short Introduction by David Ford
  • Mysteries of Faith by Mark McIntosh
  • The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety by Timothy F. Sedgwick
  • My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation edited by Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose, and Gregory Mobley

 All Years: Interlude Texts for Volume B (2024-2025)

  • Reading the Bible from the Margins by Miguel A. De La Torre
  • Healing Our Broken Humanity by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill

The 2024-25 Cathedral sessions will be in person on Tuesday nights.  Check us out at the information table in the Queen’s Courtyard after the 10:30 am Sunday service through the month of August to answer your questions and make some of the books available for your perusal. Registration during August, Orientation for the new year will be held on September 7 and class begins on September 10.   The Co-Mentors for EFM are Debbie Kistler and Susan Jester.  Please contact Debbie or Susan at: efm.stpauls@outlook.com for more information.

Susan Jester

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