More Than Just a Bible Study

Learning from a theological formation program like Education for Ministry (EfM) is not just about reflecting on Scripture and the Christian tradition, but about integrating that knowledge into everyday life. Started in 1975 by Sewanee, the University of the South, EfM is a four-year adult formation program that provides participants with the resources they need to prepare for lay ministry.

The themes of the four years of the program are Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, Christian History, and Theology and Ethics. Most participants complete all four years of the program.

Kate Maxwell, a local mentor for the program, shared that the “real meat of EfM is not in content, it’s in the relationships that are developed in the seminar group and it is in theological reflection.”

EfM is about more than just absorbing information, it’s about engaging with that information and reflecting on how it can shape your life and influence your ministry in the world. This integrative piece makes EfM unique.

With only 6-12 participants per group, the program is ideal for discussion and small group reflection on Scripture. EfM asks questions like, “What in the Christian tradition is like this situation that I’m in?” which encourages integrating theological reflection into everyday life.

In the confidential environment of EfM, pieces of life are shared in a unique and sometimes vulnerable way at the weekly sessions.

Many people who go through EfM begin without much of an understanding of theological reflection.  Through the program, though, it becomes natural to see life through a theological lens. As Maxwell put it, through discussing ideas with others, the practice “gets into your DNA after a while,” and makes theological reflection almost second nature.

EfM can be life-changing for participants.  Maxwell explained that the program “opens up their horizons theologically and spiritually” through personal, spiritual, and intellectual growth. Maxwell gave an example of one graduate of the program who used her knowledge and experience from EfM to reach out locally and make connections with a group of Somali women at work. EfM is effective in adult formation and leadership development because it helps prepare participants for ministry in whatever context they come from to use in whatever contexts they will encounter in their lives.

How do you know if EfM is right for you? There are no tests or papers involved, Maxwell explained, but participants do get out of the program what they put in. EfM is more than just a Bible study or a support group, and a willingness to allow the program to influence your life is essential.

If you are looking for a way to deepen your relationship with Scripture and the Christian tradition and to allow your spirituality to shape your life, then EfM could be an important part of your formation.

To learn more about how to get involved, visit or To register through the School for Formation or to find answers to your questions, contact Meg Bussey at