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Three Years’ Worth of SEM

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Our three year School of Everyday Mission (SEM) is in the final stretch of its third year, so we asked students from each class year to tell us what SEM has been like for them. Enjoy!

Emily, first year, Minnesota

The first time I heard an announcement about SEM, I felt myself leaning in. It was something I thought I could make work in my stage of life as a mom and wife, and seemed like an exciting way to go deeper and get more serious about my faith walk. SEM has not disappointed!

The fact that SEM has brought someone like me to the same table as people like Greg, Paul and Kevin has inadvertently revealed something that I didn’t know I needed to hear. I had a subtle, baseline assumption that God mostly works through those special Christian “elite” like pastors, theologians, missionaries, etc. Through SEM, as I listen to my peers and teachers and read about the earliest believers, I’m constantly being confronted that this thinking is a lie. SEM has given me the privilege to rub shoulders with followers of Jesus who deeply desire to transform their theology into their lives as stewards who want to care and love and minister to those in need around them.

I’ve also been really blessed to hear the humility in the SEM teachers as they speak. For instance, the direct encouragement and space created to push back on Greg’s theological ideas is so empowering and refreshing especially today when there is so much division in our world and church. Every SEM class is an opportunity to witness how believers go about wrestling and even disagreeing with Scripture with Christlike love, grace and humility.

SEM is also like an instant quick-make community. One of the best aspects of SEM is that everyone gets a chance to share their life story. There is something about that which brings a vulnerability, closeness and realness to the group that makes us all have a better connection. It also broadens my view of humanity to see that God is working through everyone’s story and difference to bring about a mind-boggling unity!

Tim, first year, Minnesota

I enrolled in SEM to dive deeper into my life with Christ and the church. I wanted a better understanding of what it looks like to bring in the Kingdom. What does that look like in our theology, individual practices, and community? This first year of SEM is already answering a lot of those questions. The class is a group of people dedicated to finding answers to big questions and having those answers actually affect and change their lives.

SEM has given me confidence that we are called to live a radical life steeped in community, deep relationships and missionality, and marked by growth and change, not just an intellectual understanding of Jesus’s teachings. The classes have explored many of Woodland’s life-changing perspectives on a deeper level. One of my favorite emphases of the year was the focus on relationality, and being a church that looks so different that people are naturally intrigued and inquisitive about what is going on.

I cannot say enough good things about the community of the class. There are individuals from every age of life, people in different countries, different professions and all different levels of education. The program does an excellent job of meeting people where they are at and giving everyone something to think about and digest.

Caroline, second year, UK

For my first year in SEM, I was able to downsize my work commitments to concentrate on the weekly late night lessons (the UK is six hours ahead of central time). This enabled me to go deep and get the most out of the material.

My second year couldn’t be more different! A new and demanding job, plus some serious health problems in the family left me with very little time to devote to SEM. Friends and family ask “Why don’t you give it up?” But it is hard to explain the value I place on being part of SEM. While the lessons are great, I’ve learnt far more from the teachers and my fellow “SEMinarians” as we learn, grow, question, struggle and love together.

I could reason I benefit from SEM more now that my life is busy and overwhelming. If I didn’t have the classes, I probably would not find any time for my heavenly Father. Plus, if it wasn’t for how much my first year of SEM changed how I feel about God, I don’t think I’d desire to walk with him closely through such busy times.

Even if you are short on time, readings are optional and lessons are recorded to catch up on, and you will still benefit from SEM as a place to delve deeper into your faith and be part of a Jesus-looking community. I feel extremely privileged to belong to such an authentic, non-judgmental, Christian community. After many years of feeling isolated spiritually, I have found my tribe.

Lucner, third year, Haiti

Before starting SEM, there were taboo topics in my faith that were always the subject of vain discussions, but in SEM I learned the difference between what is opinion, doctrine and dogma. Thanks to that, I was able to place Jesus at the center and above everything, and today, I am leading a balanced life in God’s word.

What moved me most were certain concepts that SEM taught me, such as the love and goodness of God, and why he calls us into his Kingdom. With all my heart, I was delighted to hear that God called us to receive his love on the cross, in order to share it to others. The teachers in SEM took the time to show us how, through this divine love, we are called to be visionaries of the Kingdom, to live in and reflect its reality, whether that is in our behavior, teachings, actions, etc.

I would encourage future students to stay focused and diligent, because with SEM, you will have the tools you need to better spread the gospel of the Kingdom.

Learn more

Applications are now open for our 2024-2025 SEM session – you can learn more here.  As Tim told us, “If you are remotely interested in learning more about God and living a life of intentional faith, this is probably one of the best places to be!”

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