[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in May 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news
by Laura Lehman Amstutz
LANCASTER, Pa. - As pastor at Weaverland Mennonite Church in East Earl, Pa., Brian Martin was called to sit with grieving widows and preach sermons. His 20 years in agricultural sales and construction did not prepare him for these tasks.
To better equip himself for such ministries, Martin entered the Study and Training in Effective Pastoral Ministry program (STEP). On May 18, he became one of its first graduates, along with 10 other students from this unique program, a partnership between Eastern Mennonite University’s Lancaster campus and Lancaster Mennonite Conference.
The STEP program is designed for pastors and church leaders who don’t have an undergraduate degree. While Martin notes that 20 years experience in sales and construction “is invaluable” in pastoring, the STEP program has helped him develop spiritual disciplines and practices that sustain him.
“I spend much of my time doing pastoral care in the congregation,” says Martin. “This isn’t easy, because often people are dealing with traumatic issues. I used to go into the settings feeling like I needed to be the answer man, even when I didn’t have any answers.
“I have learned to rest in the mystery of God working through me, even when I don’t have answers,” Martin adds. “I have learned that God is always present; it is my job to make him visible.”
“The most valuable part of the STEP program is that we are always doing what we are learning,” Martin says. “Whether it’s pastoral care, preaching or learning to be a community pastor or learning about boundaries in pastoral ministry, what we’re being taught is relevant and real in our lives.”
The STEP program runs on a cohort model. Students begin the three-year program together and meet one Saturday a month for nine months a year until completion.
"Students reach a deep level of familiarity and trust with each other,”said Mark Wenger, STEP director. “They give feedback to each other’s preaching, teaching and pastoral care case studies. They disagree with each other and pray together about life experiences. The cohort model helps to turn the classroom into a learning community."
The STEP program seeks to give students practical resources along with spiritual disciplines.
“People often say that pastors have the most undisciplined prayer,” Martin notes. “The STEP program introduced me to a number of different prayer and scripture reading practices. We did these as a regular part of the curriculum.”
The learning won’t end with graduation. As a closing assignment, graduates created a growth covenant. They included those areas of life, study and spiritual formation that they wants to continue to work on as pastors
All 11 graduates are in ministry in congregations in Pennsylvania.
For more information on STEP, visit www.emu.edu/lancaster/seminary/step or contact program director Mark Wenger (717) 397-5190.