Formation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary

Shaping disciples into transformational leaders

At EMS we believe that it is not only what you know that makes you a good minister, it is who you are. Our formation courses are designed to help you know yourself in a new way and to be transformed by the Holy Spirit as well. These courses offer the opportunity to explore your own story, patterns of thought, and practices so that you can cultivate wholeness in your life as a minister whatever your context.

Through small group interactions, journaling, reading, and reflection you will experience the transformation necessary to enter ministry in wholeness and self-awareness. You will learn how to cultivate a healthy balance between work, personal, spiritual, and emotional life.

I came to EMS because your alumni have true pastor’s hearts. They focus on the needs of the people and the community in which they minister. They had a pastoral identity that was created out of the formation program here at EMS. Carl Van Stavern MDiv’11

Formation is a unique emphasis of EMS. While many seminaries teach formation for congregations, few emphasize it for pastors in the ways that EMS does. Every degree program requires at least one formation class. Master of divinity students have three full-year formation courses to prepare them for ministry. All of our courses offer space and time during which students will learn about themselves, their peers, and God in deeply significant ways.

Creating trustworthy leaders

At a recent EMS event Dan Aleshire, president of the Association of Theological Schools, said,

“We need to move toward theological training that is formational which emphasizes spiritual depth and personal integrity. We need leaders who are authentic Christian humans, people we can trust.”

EMS is already there.

At EMS we give students an opportunity to really get to know themselves as unique and beloved children of God while connecting deeply with other members of the Body of Christ. Formation course small groups serve as connection points with others who are exploring ministry, asking questions about their call, and listening to the voice of God in their lives. We also offer individual spiritual direction and counseling services for those who seek a different kind of partnership in the task of understanding some of the difficulties and complexities that sometimes accompany us through life.

Formation track

Formation in God’s Story I and II (required for all degree programs), you will listen to your life narrative and locate your personal story within the larger picture of God’s story as recorded in scripture. Through engaging with different spiritual practices, you will also discern and reflect on God’s presence and action in your life. Participation in guided small group sessions are designed for listening and soul care.

Formation in Ministry I and II (required for MDiv and MACL degree programs), you will engage in ministry through a mentored internship experience and learn the art of theological reflection on that practice in a small peer group with a faculty mentor for companionship and guidance.

Formation in Missional Leadership I and II (required for MDiv), you will spend time thinking intentionally about what comes after seminary and create a project that integrates what you discern as most important from your seminary journey for your understanding and practice of ministry going forward. You will continue to engage with a peer group for companionship as you journey toward the end of your time in seminary.

Other courses in formation

In addition to the formation sequence described above there are a number of other courses in formation that students may take including courses in spiritual direction and spiritual guidance and courses in the practice of spiritual formation for congregations and youth.

Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation

In addition to courses during the regular semester, our Summer Institute for Spiritual Formation offers a unique opportunity for students who are interested in more emphasis on formation during their time in seminary or in their vocation afterwards. The SISF provides concentrated training in spiritual direction or the spiritual practice of communal worship, and is a way to continue the intentional formation work of the ministering person available during the regular semesters. These courses are available to seminary students as well as to those outside of the seminary who are seeking this kind of training but are not pursuing a seminary degree.

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