The School of Theology. Sewanee: The University of the South

News

Education for Ministry: Poised for the Future

After 35 years as one of the most successful church-wide adult lay education programs, the University of the South’s Board of Regents has approved a new strategic plan for the future of the Education for Ministry (EfM) program at The School of Theology.

EfM is an international program with more than 80,000 participants over the 35 years in seven countries. The program invites people into small, mentored communities that help them understand their lives and shape their actions as they deepen their Christian faith. Through study, prayer and theological reflection, EfM enables lay people of all ages to discover and exercise their gifts for ministry.

In 2008, the Very Rev. William Stafford, dean of The School of Theology, appointed a strategic planning committee that included representatives of every major constituency of the program plus staff, administrative officers, and educational experts. He also brought a new director, Karen Meridith, on board in 2010 to implement the changes to the program.

Meridith, who holds a M.A.T.S. from Episcopal Divinity School, has already begun to address the key points in the plan. “Several parts of the plan are already underway including improved technology, improved training spaces at Sewanee, the revision and replacement of texts and supporting materials, and development of the staff. My vision for the program is to adapt it to move seamlessly into the future without losing the essence of what it means to be EfM.”

The plan envisions an international, multicultural, multilingual, intergenerational, ecumenical network that provides study and theological reflection to people in face-to-face seminars and online groups. Using trained leaders, current electronic delivery, and quality printed materials, the program will offer a course of study and theological reflection to an ever-widening audience.

The Strategic Plan

Education for Ministry has developed a strategic plan for the future. The process involved as many people as possible including nearly 200 personal interviews and a survey of all trainers, coordinators, mentors and 1000 students. The vast majority of those interviewed and surveyed indicated a high enthusiasm for the program and many suggestions were made for its improvement. The most frequent responses indicated that the program is dated and needs new promotion, revision of its materials and texts, a more robust technological support system and the expansion of its leadership into a younger generation.

The plan includes a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, goals for the future shape of EfM, and recommendations for staffing.

The Mission Statement

Education for Ministry invites people into small, mentored communities that help us understand our lives and shape our actions as we deepen our Christian faith. We believe a gracious God calls us into relationship to serve the world. Through study, prayer and theological reflection, EfM enables us to discover and exercise our gifts for ministry where we live and work.

The Vision Statement

We envision an international, multicultural, multilingual, intergenerational, ecumenical network that provides study and theological reflection to people in face-to-face seminars and online groups. We would seek to lead people through this transformative process to become agents of change for the betterment of God’s world. Using trained leaders, current electronic delivery, and quality printed materials we would offer this program of study and theological reflection to an ever-widening audience. Beyond the seminars we would share methods of theological reflection with individuals and groups seeking to make important decisions for their lives and the world.

Goals for the Future

The strategic plan focuses on five areas: Texts and materials, technology, training, marketing and promotion, and leadership and staff.

The revision and updating of texts and materials was the primary concern that emerged from interviews and surveys. The plan recommends new texts that include sidebars, maps, charts, an index, references to sources on the Internet, etc. Text materials are to be delivered in digital as well as printed form. EfM is encouraged to seek grants for producing the program in Spanish and French and to consider developing additional shorter programs in subjects such as ethics and spirituality.

Utilizing new technology for the expansion of EfM Online will be implemented over the next several years. Beyond EfM online the strategic plan envisions an expanded use of technology for communication and administration, including the use of Blackboard to support face-to-face EfM groups. EfM would offer students, mentors, coordinators and trainers social networking options for communication and explore new technology options such as tablets, electronic readers and cell phones. In the day-to-day administration of EfM student and mentor evaluations as well as registration will be done online. Data collection by the staff could then be electronically managed more efficiently and deliver more information on the conduct of the program in a timely fashion.

Training of trainers, mentors and coordinators is envisioned as a transformational process and lies at the heart of the quality of the program. When trainers and mentors were surveyed they asked for training that would bring them into contact with the latest methodologies in adult education as well as training in the use of technology as it applies to the delivery of the program. Goals focus also on the recruitment, retention and recognition of trainers, mentors and coordinators.

The strategic plan calls for the development of an expanded effort of marketing to the Episcopal Church by giving new tools, including technological ones, to mentors and coordinators; increased communication with bishops and dioceses; contact with alumni/ae of the college, the School of Theology and other Episcopal seminaries; and an expanded presence at General Convention and other major church gatherings. Beyond the Episcopal Church the goals recommend new strategies for collaborating with other major denominations such as the UMC, UCC, ELCA, and PCUSA. With the assistance of the marketing department, EfM will administer a marketing and communications analysis to review the present promotional materials, rework the promotional message, focus on training for lay ministry, create a new look for the branding of EfM, and develop a more efficient website.

EfM leadership and staff are crucial to the program. The committee recommended a three-person executive team of Director, an Assistant Director for Operations and an Assistant Director for Training. The committee called for the Director to be a non-tenured member of the faculty who would teach a course in the seminary and attend faculty meetings. The committee felt there should be a closer relationship between EfM and The School of Theology as well as the university as a whole.

The EfM Strategic Planning Committee

The Rev. William F. Brosend, Associate Professor of Homiletics at The School of Theology
Kathryn Bruce, former EfM Staff
The Rev. Daphne Cody, Rector, Diocese of Chicago and EfM Mentor and Trainer
The Rev. Peter Davison, Director EfM Canada
The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Episcopal Priest, Diocese of Wyoming and EfM Trainer
The Rev. Ann Fraser, Episcopal Priest, Diocese of New York
Cindy Hargis, EfM Staff
Jeannie Johnson, EfM Mentor and Coordinator, Diocese of West Tennessee
Dr. Linda Lankewicz, Provost of the University
Sharon Ely Pearson, Christian Formation Specialist, Church Publishing
Cindy Sherrill, former Director of Operations of The School of Theology
The Very Rev. William S. Stafford, Dean of The School of Theology
The Rev. Anne B. Stevenson, Cathedral Canon, Diocese of Tennessee, EfM Mentor
Sissie Wile, former Interim Director of EfM
Noel Workman, Former Advertising Executive, EfM Mentor and Trainer
The Very Rev. Charles E. Kiblinger, Consultant