EfM (Education for Ministry)

Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of lay theological education that combines worship, group and individual study, and spiritual reflection in a small seminar (6 to 12 people) format under the guidance of trained mentors.

Groups meet weekly for 36 weeks spread over a nine-month period, often September to June. The entire program is four one-year cycles. The first year readings are in and about the Hebrew Bible, the second, the New Testament, the third Church History, and the fourth topics in contemporary theology. Most groups have members from each of the four years who meet together.

EfM was developed at and is administered by The School of Theology of the University of the South in Sewanee, TN (Sewanee EfM website), a university run by The Episcopal Church. There are EfM groups all over the world, and around the Diocese of California.

People begin the EfM program for many reasons — an interest in the origins and development of scripture and church history, a desire to find a ministry that “fits,” a suggestion by your rector that it might be a good program for you, a way of connecting with other members of the congregation and/or a need to develop new skills for a leadership role. Whatever the reason you begin, by the end of the four years, EfM will have challenged you, expanded your knowledge of your church and its history, given you unique spiritual friendships, and empowered you to act your faith.

What EfM is and is not:
  • EfM is NOT “bible study,” although critical analysis of the bible is part of the program.
  • EfM is group Spiritual Development. It is not group therapy.
  • EfM seminars usually include worship, discussion of the texts assigned for that week, and sharing of Spiritual Autobiographies or a Theological Reflection exercise.
  • EfM small group discussions improve active listening skills.
  • EfM Theological Reflections develop problem-solving skills.
  • EfM creates the habit of engagement.
  • EfM encourages deep engagement with difficult topics, which compels action.
  • EfM includes materials that generate discussions with people who have very different opinions and viewpoints without judging “right” or “wrong.”
  • EfM helps participants turn insights into actions.
  • EfM helps us uncover our own hidden biases.
  • EfM does not give us the answers. It helps us ask the questions.
Dana Santa Cruz, a 2018 graduate of Grace Cathedral's EfM group, describes it this way:

If I had to choose one word to reflect upon my EfM experience, I would choose the word “relationship.” Like all rich relationships, my EfM experience was a kaleidoscope of emotions and intellect. At times, the learning was harmonious and aligned with my beliefs. Other times, new thoughts challenged my beliefs and I struggled to process new ideas. [...] I learned to love the struggle and the mystery and understand that is where I find my humanity. I value my questions and savor my relationship with them. I know that as I learn more and I gain more life experience, my relationship and questions will change.

Want to be an EfM Mentor?

EfM Mentor Training is held once a year in the Diocese of California, in late summer. Information about upcoming Mentor Trainings and online registration available here.

For information about where there are groups, help starting your own group, or for questions about EfM Mentor Training in the Diocese of California, contact Roberta Sautter, nixile@earthlink.net or Stephen Southern, sps0131@gmail.com.