Education for Ministry in the Diocese of Washington

Course Content

Every baptized person is called to ministry. The Education for Ministry (EfM) program provides people with the education to carry out that ministry. During the Service of Confirmation we ask God to "Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at Baptism. Send them forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before them." EfM offers an opportunity to discover how to respond to the call to Christian service.

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. Students 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 ministry - 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.

The Seminar Group: 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.

Study; 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.

Prayer and Worship : 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.

Reflection: 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 Role of the Mentor: Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors who 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. 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.

Outline of Reading Materials: The program recommends thirty-six group meetings during the course of an academic cycle. New members begin with the first lesson of Year One. Participants in the same group may be studying at different levels. They read thirty-four chapters of academic content and five common readings that are common to all levels and which help the group to get started, to learn to reflect theologically, and to develop its spirituality.

EfM Reading and Reflection Guides (Used by All Year Levels)
  • The Cycles of Guides:
    • Volume A: Living Faithfully in Your World
    • Volume B: Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World
    • Volume C: Living as Spiritually Mature Christians
    • Volume D: Living into the Journey with God
  • The Units in Each Guide
    • Sharing Spiritual Autobiographies and Listening
    • Thinking Theologically
    • Developing a Sustaining Spirituality
    • Integrating Belief and Behavior
    • Vocation: Hearing and Responding to God’s Call
Year One: The Hebrew Bible
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John J. Collins (Fortress Press, 2007)

Year Two: The New Testament
Introducing the New Testament by Mark Allan Powell (Baker Academic, 2009)

Year Three: Church History
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch (Penguin Books, 2009)

Year Four: Theology, Ethics, and Interfaith Encounter
Theology: A Very Short Introduction by David F. Ford (Oxford University Press, 2013)
Mysteries of Faith by Mark McIntosh (Cowley Publications, 2000)
The Christian Moral Life: Practices of Piety by Timothy F. Sedgwick (Seabury Books, 2008)
My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation by Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose, and Gregory Mobley (Orbis Books, 2012)

Interlude Texts (Read by All Year Levels)