It is the Institute’s belief that education for ministry is best served in a community setting. As Christianity itself is a communal faith, learning about the Christian tradition and the ministry to which Christians are called is best fostered in an experience of community. Participants, therefore, do not engage the program content in isolation. Rather, they meet in groups of ten to fifteen people to form a learning community that remains intact for the duration of the program. Within this climate, students are encouraged both to support and challenge one another as they reflect upon their concrete life and ministerial experiences in light of the course material. During their focus area courses, students meet in smaller cohort groups to reflect on their learning.
Learning groups are made up of students with a variety of interests and goals. A church institution may professionally employ some, while others may identify their vocations as taking place within the contexts of work or broader community settings. Groups may be ecumenical in composition. Learning groups must have a majority of their students enrolled for graduate credit.
A facilitator is a person who is sensitive to the interpersonal dimensions of groups, holds a graduate degree or the equivalent in ministry or a related field, and is able to guide the group in its task of engaging the course materials through discussion and other small group exercises. Facilitators do not act as faculty. They implement learning designs created by Loyola faculty for class sessions. Loyola faculty certify, train, and maintain written and phone communications with facilitators; they also monitor their work and provide them with continuing education workshops as they progress through the program with their groups.