STEP offers cohort in Philadelphia

Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster’s STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral Ministry) will offer its first cohort session in Philadelphia this September.

This cohort is a move by the seminary to offer pastoral training to urban and racially and ethnically diverse pastors.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster's STEP program offering cohort in Philadelphia
Students from EMS Pennsylvania’s 2010 STEP cohort Khon Tran (right) and Luc Pham (left).

"This is a big deal for us," said EMS at Lancaster director Mark R. Wenger. "EMU is responding to dynamic church growth, community outreach and ministry in Philadelphia."

STEP appeals to Philadelphia pastors

Every year since STEP began in 2004 church leaders from Philadelphia have participated in the program. Previously they drove to Lancaster each month.

"Moving STEP to Philadelphia fits with my vision for taking high quality pastoral training as close to the congregation as possible," Dr. Wenger said.

Karen Jantzi, adjunct instructor at Temple University and member of Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, served on the advisory committee for the STEP Philadelphia cohort. She will also be an instructor in the program.

Program nurtures urban leadership

"I believe that everyone needs to have an introduction to basic theology and biblical studies," said Dr. Jantzi. "I’m excited about this program because it indicates that the Pennsylvania conferences and the denomination understand the importance of nurturing leadership within the city."

The advisory committee, made up of pastors and leaders in Philadelphia, helped Wenger and EMS determine the feasibility of starting a cohort in the city. They also helped shape the program to make it relevant to the urban context.

Wenger is expecting 8-15 persons for this year’s cohort in Philadelphia. Participants will be Anglo, African-American, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Latino. While most will be from urban settings, at least one pastor from a rural congregation will join them.

Cohort will focus on urban context

"The sociological study by Conrad Kanagy titled ‘Roadsigns for the Journey’ spoke about racial/ethnic congregations being the growing edge of the denomination. This is what I’m observing in Philadelphia," said Wenger.

Working in an urban setting will have some challenges," he continued. "One is that many of these congregations don’t have the resources that more rural congregations have to help educate their pastors."

To help with affordability, Wenger is raising money to provide $1,000 scholarships for each participant.

The STEP program (Study and Training for Effective Pastoral ministry), a partnership between Lancaster Mennonite Conference and Eastern Mennonite University, provides training for people who are licensed for pastoral ministry or who have been encouraged to consider pastoral work, but may not have had college, Bible school, or seminary. For more information on the STEP program, contact Mark Wenger at 717-397-5190 or by email at