[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in June 2005. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

EMU to 'STEP' Up Program for Pastoral Leaders

Mark R. Wenger
STEP Director Mark R. Wenger

The word "ministry" is used to describe or to validate a host of activities these days, but a recently-launched initiative by Eastern Mennonite University definitely qualifies for this term.

EMU, through its Lancaster, Pa., extension campus, is offering "Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry" (STEP), designed for pastoral leaders in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference.

Lancaster Conference, founded in 1775, today has 17,496 members in 186 congregations in an eight-state area and 385 active ordained and licensed pastors.

With many of these pastors being bi-vocational, often called from within their local congregations with little or no college-level education, the conference approached EMU to work with them in developing a program to provide undergraduate-level training in pastoral ministry skills to enhance their effectiveness.

On July 1 this year, Mark R. Wenger, formerly of Waynesboro, Va., will step into the director's role for the STEP program. He will succeed Karl R. Landis, Lancaster Conference's director of leadership development, who helped start the program and has served as its interim first-year director.

STEP
STEP classes meet one Saturday per month, nine months out of the year.

"It's been a privilege to be involved in the startup of the STEP program," Landis said. "Students seem to welcome this opportunity to receive practical training while engaged in long-term pastoral roles. They especially appreciate the personal and spiritual formation emphases," he added.

Dr. Wenger, his wife Kathy Weaver Wenger and daughters Regina and Charlotte are moving to Lancaster, where as director of pastoral studies he will oversee the STEP program, based at the EMU-Lancaster campus at 1846 Charter Lane.

Wenger will also continue to oversee the Preaching Institute, an innovative in-service training program for men and women who want to improve their preaching, from his Lancaster base and coordinate seminary courses offered through EMU-Lancaster. He will teach at least one course each year.

The Wengers previously co-pastored Springdale Mennonite Church near Waynesboro for 10 years.

"This is a unique undertaking intended for non-traditional students," Wenger said. "I believe it will especially appeal to those who for various reasons are unable to complete a four-year undergraduate degree and then on to two or three years of seminary."

Wenger noted that STEP participants attend classes at the Lancaster Conference Center from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturdays once a month from October through June. The three-year training program will lead to a certificate of completion that can be applied towards an associate in arts degree awarded by EMU, pending final approval by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Courses emphasize sharpening leadership skills along with biblical studies, personal growth and spiritual formation, Wenger said.

While many students in STEP will arrange their own funding, some financial assistance is available from Lancaster Conference through its leadership education grant program, a matching grant from Mennonite Mutual Aid and low-interest loans through Eastern Mennonite Missions, Salunga, Pa.

The program opened with a group of 14 students last fall; a second cohort of 16-20 persons is expected for the fall of 2005. While primarily intended for pastoral leaders in Lancaster Conference, other pastoral leaders in the greater Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania area have also indicated interest in enrolling. An urban STEP cohort is expected to begin this fall based at Diamond Street Community Center in Philadelphia.

"I've heard nothing but enthusiastic comments from those enrolled in STEP," Wenger said, adding that he hopes the program will expand to include persons from other denominations.

More information on STEP is available from EMU-Lancaster, 1846 Charter Lane, Lancaster, PA 17605; phone: 866-EMU-LANC; e-mail: . Persons may also contact Karl Landis at Lancaster Mennonite Conference, 717-293-5246; e-mail .

-article by Jim Bishop