EfM* is a Spiritual Formation program,

offered for over 40 years by the School of Theology University of the South.

It is NOT a Bible study nor a catechumens process nor a therapy group.
It has NO papers, tests, grades, instructors, credit.


EfM is a weekly seminar from September to May that uses Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience to reflect theologically on the Christian life.

EfM is for discernment of ministry in whatever circumstances one finds oneself.

EfM is for sincere seekers after understanding, insight, and appreciation of the experience of God in everyday life.

EfM is a one-year commitment, which can be renewed for four years.

EfM is NOT expensive, but it is not free. Tuition of $325 per year is necessary for curriculum development, training, and administrative costs. Participants purchase their own materials. Our diocese is a member diocese of EfM, offering discounted tuition rates. Scholarships are available for those for whom the tuition would be prohibitive.

At St James Episcopal Church, we have had two ongoing groups for almost a decade. This coming fall 2023 we will be offering three groups with some of them through Zoom. The structure of EfM is that of a one-room schoolhouse; in other words, 10-12 participants and two mentors meet weekly for discussion and reflection on the readings assigned. The participants of each of the four years have different areas of study: Year 1 Old Testament, Year 2 New Testament, Year 3 Christianity, Year 4 History of Ancient and Modern Religion. Other common readings are also assigned. While that structure sounds complex, it easily provides the foundation for a rich and varied conversation weekly.

Our participants vary in age, religious background, gender, race, ethnicity, professions, politics . . . We create a forum that is a safe place for all of us to explore our own faith journeys and to consider the ideas and behaviors that are of current concern.

For more information about the EfM program at St. James Episcopal Church, call or write De Sellers (512-426-9952, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Bruce Christman (512-698-8532m This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Suzy Stege (512-351-2290. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Lizzie Cain Clark (512-426-6575, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).




*Our St James' informal name for EfM is Exploring Faith Matters.



Here are some of the comments from recent graduates and current participants:

If you are like I was before EfM, you are not looking for something like Education for Ministry. 
Before EfM I think I might have read the Bible once in my life--over several years. I might have gone to Adult Forum a few times. No real interest in scripture or the history of Christianity or any religion, except Islam, because I have devout Muslim friends. 
The name of the the program, "Education for Ministry," was mysterious to me.  I was not interested in being a minister.  And that was the only kind of ministry I associated with that word.

But despite all that unknowing and wrong knowing, I put my name on the list.


Of all the many things I learned in EfM about the Old and New Testaments, about Christianity and other religions, the most important thing I learned about was me--about the journey I did not know I had been on and about my desire to continue on that journey.  I did not know how much richness there was in listening to the ideas and interpretations of others-- who were not standing behind a pulpit --but others like me simply on the same journey . There is a kind of instant trust that bubbles up when I meet people who share the same deep interests I do---I might not know them well at all, but that connectedness leads to a kind of trust that ordinarily takes a long time to develop in friendships. That was how EfM felt from day one. 
EfM for me was a commitment-- a commitment to myself to truly reflect on what I was learning during the week in preparation for our weekly gatherings; a commitment to the others in the group to be prepared to share my thinking about weekly assignments--however strange or unsure it might have sounded to me or them--and a commitment to truly listen to what others had to say.   I have learned that as with most things I get out of learning what I invest in it.  And whatever amount of investment others in the group were able and willing to make was just fine.  
And as for the "ministry" in EfM ...learning in and of itself is a fine thing for me.  Learning and then being able to apply that learning in ways that benefit the worlds I live in, including me, is what EfM points to.  
And if you are not like I was, if you are looking for something like EfM, you just hit the jackpot!

When I think about who I was in the spring of 2020, I had this idea that I was already kinda there, spiritually and emotionally. The motivation to sign up for EfM stemmed mainly from a deep desire to read a lot about theology and philosophy and talk to other people about faith consistently. I knew there was more of the gnitty gritty of church history and bible lore for me to pore over and discuss and digest, but deep down, I didn't expect much in my inner world to change. I mean, I told De of course I wanted to be challenged and to experience personal growth in my discernment as a teacher and a Christian. But now, fast forward three years and I am so utterly surprised by the pieces of myself that have been unearthed and examined over the years with the Monday night group. And I am so unabashedly grateful, because I feel as though a great weight has lifted off of my shoulders. I've had a safe space to practice vulnerability and deep listening to others. I have formed such important, intimate relationships with my classmates, and along the way, I have formed a stronger relationship to myself, and to God. It overflows into my personal and professional life and choices as well, in ways that are whole-making and restorative. Our reading list is also fabulous, and the multi-generational students are not your average Bible study group. I'm already looking forward to Year Four.

I can’t really talk about my EfM journey without briefly discussing the impact of my church, St. James Episcopal Church. Before I joined St. James and then EfM, I would describe my spiritual life as rudderless. I had gone from youth’s blind faith to a sort of resigned evaporating faith, and I was unable to connect to my Christian roots as a source of sustainable faith and guidance in a broken world. I was in need of a spiritual community, and St. James provided a dynamic, multicultural, socially-justice-minded community where I sensed I belonged and could grow. Someone I trusted at St. James, an EfMer, told me she thought I could benefit from enrolling in EfM, so I followed through and started my first year in the fall of 2020. I went in hoping to deepen my knowledge, faith, and conviction. Maybe I could even discern what God wants me to do with my life going forward.
The EfM format creates a sense of a shared journey together. We talk among the four years of study and engage in intentional conversations. The mentors are excellent, add a depth of understanding, and keep things in perspective. Starting with my first year of EfM I began a process of deconstruction, reorganization, and reconstruction. At times I was dismayed to watch the remnants of my faith structures of bygone days crumble. The second year continued the process, and that was the year that I set an intention to develop a loving and thoughtful relationship with Jesus, to be reconciled to one I didn’t really know or feel a deep sense of connection with. I do feel this connection now. As I entered Year Three, I was prepared to learn the divine and deplorable history of the Christian church over the millennia. I am learning about this, but also have deepened my appreciation of the traditions of the church while coming to grips with its wrongheadedness. I am discerning the importance of taking the path forward as a faith community with a renewed resolve to carry out Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he has loved us. Next year will be right up my alley- an exploration of the world’s great religions in an interfaith study and more.
I see a big difference in how I felt spiritually before I started EfM and now. I’ll always be a seeker-we all are-but now I have a solid and broad foundation from which to launch further faith forays. I’m looking forward to the journey and to see who comes out the other side!

During a very difficult year of my life, I received weekly reports from my friend of her wonderful experiences attending EFM.  I could see how the experience was expanding her mentally, spiritually and socially.  When the time came to apply for the next EFM class, my grief was more manageable, but I was still balancing a busy career.  I decided that I needed to make time for nourishing my mind and soul and took the leap into the program!
I'm in my second year of EFM, and am so grateful for this experience. I have had a long spiritual journey and maintained a daily practice of reading scripture.  Still I have benefited greatly from the more directed and expanded theological reflection in EFM.  Many of the bible studies I had explored in the last decade have left me unfulfilled.  My experiences with St. James EFM, and Christian Formation, have been very fulfilling and insightful for me.  None of the discussions are like a traditional instruction, and no one is telling me "what to think".  Rather I have been given more insight to ways to think, process and reflect and been reading deeper and more diverse theologians than I did prior to EFM.  

Benefits of Participating in St. James Episcopal Education for Ministry [EFM] Program


Learning in a safe community: I love learning in a diverse group of individuals who are willing to be inquisitive about scripture, theology and church history and feel safe doing so. We don’t all interpret the class content the same way and that’s a good thing. EFM, as a course and because of our mentors/facilitators, challenges us to consider what we believe and why we believe it.
Students from all 4 EFM years (Old Testament, New Testament, church history, and theology) participate in the EFM community which enriches learning and helps us make connections among the topics.
Reading from renown biblical and cultural scholars: We read from a broad range of published biblical scholars who have researched scripture, and each one offers their interpretation. We also read authors who, while they are not mainline, offer different perspectives on scripture, church history and theology that challenges our thinking and helps us clarify what we believe and why we believe it. 

EFM has become an important part of my life.  I’m in the second year of the course.  My group is a supportive community.  Everyone brings their best to the readings and discussion.  We are exploring deep ideas together.  Although we are a zoom group the relationships feel very direct.  It is a privilege to read and study the scriptures and readings together.

Education for Ministry (EFM) is a four year theological education program that encourages participants to study, learn and reflect. I’m in year two of the program and I’m finding EFM to be meaningful and thought provoking. The small mentored led groups have theological based discussions and spiritual reflections. Life experiences, the curriculum and discussions help the participants discern how to respond to the call to service and ministry. 


As a second year EFM student—and one that follows and practices the Jewish faith—learning about Christianity and its rich 2000+ year history of spiritual practices and teachings has strengthened my own faith and provided me with new insights and perspectives. I prize the interfaith dialogue that I experience each week with my classmates as we engage in constructive conversations about faith and spirituality. At its heart, EFM for me is spiritual and intellectual nourishment for prayer, meditation, contemplation, and greater empathy and understanding between people with differing beliefs.  Together, we work towards the common goal of learning to live faithfully as we deepen our journey with God. 

EFM is a reasoned exploration of biblical and religious thought. I found that it is a very rewarding way to explore our faith tradition. After all, the three pillars of the Episcopal Church are Scripture, Tradition, and Reason… Reason! I have acquired some new beliefs that are of sustaining value, and I have discarded some others that were not useful. I have done this in the community of other graceful pilgrims who are thoughtfully exploring their own faith. EFM has deepened my faith and given me more knowledge about God. EFM is also a wonderful way to deeply share who you are and who you are becoming within a community of other kind seekers. I hope you will join us in the journey.