The seminar group is the nucleus of the Education for Ministry program.
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 study, prayer, 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 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.
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.
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.
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 EFfM program does not evaluate or recommend individuals for ordination. Many people think that one must be ordained in order to be "a minister." The fact is that all baptized Christians are called to be active participants in the church's total ministry.
This TOTAL MINISTRY is nothing less than the exercise of the church's vocation to continue the ministry of Jesus. He reconciled the world to God. We are called to incarnate that reconciliation in our own time and in our own place through worship, service to others, and by proclamation of God's Word to all people.
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 preparation for ordination vows usually takes place at a residential seminary. There candidates develop their knowledge of Holy Scripture and theology and grow in the skills of preaching, leading worship, and administering the church's sacraments, as well as in their ability to be spiritual directors.
The EFM program does not teach these skills.
Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors who contract to serve as guides and administrators. They are not teachers in the traditional sense who are expected to impart information about the Christian tradition. The role of the teacher is built into the program materials. As administrator of an EfM group, the mentor is the person through whom the group communicates with the Programs Center.
A mentor must work as an enabler rather than as an informer of people. Mentors may be lay or ordained persons.
Criteria by which mentors are selected include: having experience in serious religious study, having a familiarity with methods of biblical scholarship, possessing a mature faith, being able to live with the ambiguity within the interpretations of the biblical tradition, possessing skills which help a group to develop its own life, and demonstrating a willingness to perform administrative duties.
Year One - Old Testament
Year Two - New Testament
Year Three - Church History
Year Four - Theology, Ethics, and Interfaith Encounter
EFM has given me confidence and a deeper understanding of my faith; how my faith is relevant to my daily life, how decisions should be based more on reflecting on religious principles, and guiding me in my vocation to serve my family and community. I am now not shy to share my beliefs and to explore the beliefs of others.
Since 2010, St. Francis has had 10 graduates complete the EFM program. Their ministries continue to enrich the daily lives of others and the community of St. Francis.