Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation

Purpose

The Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation is a 36-credit-hour degree designed to equip persons as leaders for spiritual formation ministries in the church, community, and world or as spiritual directors.  

Student Learning Outcomes

As a result of completing the MASF degree program, the individual will:

  • Describe, critically and constructively, the biblical and theological foundations of the Christian tradition in relation to formation [B.2.2 Religious Heritage].
  • Define, implement, and assess spiritual formation processes in individuals and groups in a variety of social and cultural settings [B.2.3 Cultural Context].
  • Identify and evaluate his or her spiritual formation journey of conforming to the image of Christ for the sake of others [B.2.4 Formation].
  • Develop habits of authentic disciplines for living holistically in today’s world [B.2.4 Formation].
  • Demonstrate the character and skills necessary for spiritually guiding others in the Christian tradition  [B.2.4 & B.2.5 Specialization].
  • Practice skills of leading and teaching in the specialized ministry of spiritual formation [B.2.5 Specialization].

Admission Requirements

Applicants seeking admission to the MA in Spiritual Formation program must hold a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university†, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. In addition, applicants must complete the following to be considered for admission to the program:

  • Submit Portland Seminary application and application fee
  • Submit one official transcript from each college/university attended
  • Resumé
  • Personal mission statement and statement of faith
  • Three letters of reference (as specified in admissions materials)
  • An interview addressing the prospective student’s discernment around preparation for the ministry of spiritual formation

†Applicants who do not hold a four-year baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university may apply to the university but will be required to submit additional documentation to be considered for admission.

Transfer Credit

Transfer of up to 18 hours credit is allowed toward the MA in Spiritual Formation program from ATS-accredited graduate schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or better for a course to be considered for transfer. In addition, only courses taken elsewhere within 10 years of the date of matriculation to the MA in Spiritual Formation program will be considered for transfer. Transferability of credits earned at this institution and transferred to another is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Consult the registrar's office for information on eligibility of transfer credit.

Residence Requirements

Residence, as described in this section of the catalog, does not refer to the time a student spends on campus. It refers to the portion of a degree program that students are required to earn with Portland Seminary, as compared to transfer credits and credit applied as advanced standing. With regard to the MASF program, students are required to complete half of the degree (18 semester hours) directly with Portland Seminary. A leave of absence is valid for up to one year after which the student must reapply to the program. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree.

Course Requirements

The MASF program is generally two years in length with 36 semester hours of coursework required as a minimum for graduation. Of the total hours required for the degree, 12 are in biblical and theological foundations courses, 8-10 are in pastoral ministries and ministry leadership courses, 10 are spiritual formation core courses and 4-6 are practicum courses either in a formation apprenticeship or in spiritual direction training.

Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate with the MA in Spiritual Formation degree students must:

  • Satisfactorily complete a minimum of 36 semester hours with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Achieve no grade lower than a C- in all courses. If a grade of a C- or lower is received, that course must be retaken (for more specific information, please refer to the student handbook).
  • Successfully pass candidacy
  • Successfully complete each milestone
  • Be recommended by the seminary faculty for graduation from Portland Seminary of George Fox University

Other Degree Requirements

Each masters student will undergo an initial psychological assessment with a licensed mental health practitioner upon matriculation to identify areas for fit and growth in relation to ministry and vocational discernment. This initial review process serves as a way to assess the student's fit for the program; fit for the profession; emotional, psychological, and intellectual ability; as well as maturity level for functioning safely as a ministry leadership professional. The seminary faculty will review this assessment for newly matriculated students each fall semester and take it into consideration alongside conversations regarding the student performance during the semester. At times, the faculty may recommend, or require counseling in order to better identify areas of personal growth in order to maximize on one’s ministry potential and capitalize on discovered strengths through one’s seminary career. For more specific information, please refer to the student handbook.

 

Curriculum Plan

Complete the following:

Introduces students to the literature of the Old Testament in its socio-historical, literary, and theological contexts with particular interest in spiritual formation and Christian practice.
Introduces students to the literature of the New Testament in its socio-historical, literary, and theological contexts with particular interest in spiritual formation and Christian practice.
Examines movements and people within Christianity who have brought spiritual renewal to the church, including monasticism, the mystics, the Reformers, Pietism, the Wesleyan/evangelical revival, and certain present-day examples. Focuses not only on history, but also on themes within spiritual renewal and on insights that can be drawn for the contemporary believer and church.

Choose one of the following:

Building on the skills and knowledge of BIST 501, this course introduces more advanced exegetical methods through a variety of Old Testament texts. Special attention will be paid to major theological themes such as holiness, justice, theodicy, divine presence and absence, worship, trauma and how these themes are applicable to today's communities of faith. Prerequisite: BIST 501.
Building on the skills and knowledge of BIST 502, this course engages students with the nature of interpretation (hermeneutics) as well as methods and tools that support interpretation (exegesis). Special emphasis will be placed on key moral and theological concerns today and how a variety of viewpoints, methods, and approaches help the reader of the Bible move from ancient text to modern life. Important topics related to the canon will also be included such as the inspiration, authority, and composition of the Bible. Prerequisite: BIST 502.

Complete the following:

The purpose of this course is to explore the questions: What is spiritual formation and discipleship? What is the spiritual leader's role? and How does formation and discipleship happen in the current cultural context and in the church? The course focuses on formation as a spiritual and holistic experience. The scriptural, theological, developmental, pedagogical, and biological nature of formation and discipleship are explored.
P artIofacoursethatbuildsthecapacityofwomenandmentoeffectivelydevelopministry leadership skills for an ethnically diverse world. This course will explore theoretical approaches to ethnic studies and contextual theologies in dialogue with present-day ministry contexts. Special consideration will be given to promoting intersectional reconciliation of men and women and racial/ethnic groups. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 525 and MLDR 535 in direct sequence.)
An introduction to the counseling role of the minister or spiritual director. The purpose of the course is to acquaint the student with a basic counseling method in relation to the typical situations encountered in ministry. Special attention will be given to healthy differentiation and ministerial ethics. One of the principal objectives will be to help the student recognize when and how to refer persons to qualified mental health professionals. (Note: it is required that students take both PSTD 521 and PSTD 522, in direct sequence).

Choose one of the following:

Designed to assist leaders and their communities in understanding and engaging in faithful transformation of the cultures, systems, and structures of their context. The course follows a practical theological approach, engaging in description, theological evaluation, and transformational practice while drawing insights from various disciplines to help discern effective and faithful change.
Studies the biblical, historical, and cultural approaches to leadership. The qualities and skills of the missional leader are discussed with particular emphases on the leader's global view of Christianity, the leader's creative and entrepreneurial development, and his or her stewardship of gifts and responsibility.

Complete the following:

Provides an opportunity for students to develop self-awareness in the context of their Christian faith and preparation for ministry. It equips students to reflect critically and constructively on their mission and vision, personal spiritual histories, and the strengths, weaknesses, and spirituality of their personality types.
Gives students opportunities to explore images of God portrayed in the Scriptures and in the mystical traditions of the Church. Students compare these images and traditions to those that have shaped their own thoughts, emotions, and actions. Students are able to inform, strengthen, and transform their images and experiences.
Provides an opportunity for students to develop deeper and more satisfying prayer lives in the context of a global environment. As the essential relational discipline of the Christian journey, prayer is examined and experienced in its diverse ecclesial, ethnic, and cultural forms as found in Scripture, Christian history, and the Church.
Introduces students to some of the classic disciplines and practices of the spiritual life, including self-examination and confession, keeping Sabbath, simplicity, justice and compassion, and embodiment. These spiritual practices are explored in order to become aware of and engage the presence of God in one’s life.
Gives students the opportunity in a seminar format to come to a deeper awareness of who they are and why they do what they do. Through practices and tools such as centering prayer, the enneagram, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, students will become healthier servant leaders through an intentional formation of their identities. (Note: it is required that students take both SFAD 551 and SFAD 552).
Gives students the opportunity in a seminar format to come to a deeper awareness of who they are and why they do what they do. Through practices and tools such as centering prayer, the enneagram, and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, students will become healthier servant leaders through an intentional formation of their identities. (Note: it is required that students take both SFAD 551 and SFAD 552).
Examines the unique nature and responsibility of spiritual leadership. It analyzes the theology of spiritual leadership and reviews elements such as accountability, boundaries, devotional habits, life balance, retreats, solitude, and emotional, spiritual, and physical health. The course also delves into some of the things that inhibit the exercise of spiritual leadership.
A seminar represents the involvement of a group of students with a professor studying a specially selected topic. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions for seminar topics to the departmental chair. Such requests, as well as faculty interests and special opportunities, will be considered in arrangements for a seminar.

Spiritual Formation Practicum (6 hours)

Complete the following:

Students pursue either Apprenticeship or Spiritual Direction to satisfy these 6 credits.

Complete the following:
Part I of a unique practicum experience in which students participate in an internship in order to gain expertise in the tasks of their degree specialization. The practicum component is coupled with guidance and mentoring of a site supervisor and faculty who facilitate processes of integration. (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 568 and MLDR 569).
Part II of a unique practicum experience in which students participate in an internship in order to gain expertise in the tasks of their degree specialization. The practicum component is coupled with guidance and mentoring of a site supervisor and faculty who facilitate processes of integration. Prerequisite: MLDR 568 (Note: it is required that students take both MLDR 568 and MLDR 569).
An introduction to the counseling role of the minister or spiritual director. The purpose of the course is to acquaint the student with a basic counseling method in relation to the typical situations encountered in ministry. Special attention will be given to healthy differentiation and ministerial ethics. One of the principal objectives will be to help the student recognize when and how to refer persons to qualified mental health professionals. (Note: it is required that students take both PSTD 521 and PSTD 522, in direct sequence).

OR

Complete the following:
This course focuses on hosting spiritual conversations for soul companions. Generous listening is a core practice for intentionally guiding persons in their spiritual growth and at center of training for spiritual directors. This course explores the historical, theological, biblical, and psychological premises for soul companionship and introduces students to core practices. Students will reflect on meaning and definitions of hosting spiritual conversations in light of their own experience and the course teachings and personal discernment regarding vocational spiritual direction. Note: it is required that students take SFAD 571 & SFAD 572. Permission from instructor is necessary to enter SFAD 572).
This course continues the students’ training in the discipline of spiritual direction. It addresses professional issues related to being a spiritual director and gives students practical experience in being spiritual directors, under the guidance of certified supervisors. (Note: it is required that students take both SFAD 571 & SFAD 572. Permission from instructor is necessary to enter course. Additional fees: The cost of personal spiritual direction is covered by the student.)
In this course students will continue to train and practice the discipline of spiritual direction. The course addresses additional issues in spiritual direction while students continue practical experience, under the guidance of faculty and certified supervisors. Course participation is limited to students in the MASF degree program. Prerequisites: SFAD 571 & 572. (Note: Permission from instructor is necessary to enter course. Additional fees: The cost of personal spiritual direction and individual supervision are covered by the student.)