Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation

Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation

(DMin degree)


The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree is the highest professional degree for those in parish or related ministries. It is designed for educated, experienced practitioners who desire to stimulate renewal in themselves and in their ministries through the integration of their experience with advanced training, research, and reflection. The DMin is distinctive from academic doctorates such as the PhD and ThD in that its primary focus is on the practice of ministry. The DMin is also distinctive from other professional degrees such as the EdD and the PsyD in that it builds on the three-year master of divinity (MDiv) and at least three years of post-MDiv ministry experience.

The Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation (DMin LSF) shapes experienced influencers through the literature and art and practice of Christian spiritual formation and leadership to impact their communities and the world.

The delivery system of the Doctor of Ministry in  Leadership and Spiritual Formation program includes participation in several seminars, conferences, or 'field research' experiences around the country or abroad; personal mentoring by both the lead mentor and select faculty advisors; online interactivity with cohort members and professors; five 'advance' face-to-face intensives; as well as reading, reflection, research, and writing.

Program learning outcomes

Graduates of the Leadership and Spiritual Formation track will:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of key historical spiritual formation texts, practices, people, and events.
  • Formulate a critical understanding of cultural and transformational servant leadership characteristics and practices as evidenced in oneself and one's leadership environment.
  • Develop and acquire skills and competencies in research methods, critical thinking, academic voice, and ministry application.
  • Contribute to the understanding and practice of ministry through the completion of a doctoral-level project in the field of formation and leadership.
  • Demonstrate competency in Christian formation practices, individual and organizational change processes, and designing contextualized formational communities.
  • Engage with diverse cultural, religious, and linguistic contexts of ministry.

Admission Requirements

Applicants seeking admission to the Doctor of Ministry program must hold an ATS-accredited MDiv degree or meet the seminary's MDiv-equivalency requirements, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. In addition, applicants must complete the following to be considered for admission to the program:

  • DMin application form and payment of application fee
  • Submission of one official transcript from each college, seminary, or university attended
  • Curriculum vitae or resumé
  • Documentation of ministry experience that demonstrates that the applicant possesses the level of competence and reflection appropriate for advanced, professional ministerial studies. This is normally reflected in the applicant's documentation of full-time participation in ministry for at least three years after the completion of the MDiv degree.
  • Three letters of reference (as specified in admissions materials)
  • Three self-assessment essays that outline the applicant's spiritual pilgrimage, leadership experience, and purpose for pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree
  • An entrance interview with the director or associate director of the DMin program (by invitation only)
  • Non-native English speakers must submit a TOEFL score of 80 (Internet based) or IELTS 6.5

Equivalency Procedures
An applicant who holds a master's degree but does not hold the MDiv degree from an ATS-accredited seminary may qualify for admission to the DMin program by meeting the ATS-requirements of a 72-graduate-semester-hour educational equivalent in theology, biblical studies, and the arts of ministry from an accredited institution.

The MDiv standard below serves as a guide for assessing equivalency:

Biblical Studies 21
Christian History and Thought 18
Spiritual Formation and Discipleship 6
Pastoral Studies 27
Total 72

Upon submission of official transcripts from all prior graduate work, the DMin program director or associate director will assess the correspondence between the applicant's educational portfolio and the 72-graduate-semester-hour MDiv standard and make a recommendation to the DMin Committee concerning the applicant's equivalency status. Applicants needing extra graduate-level course work to attain equivalency status may be admitted to the program with the stipulation that the appropriate 'leveling' course work be completed in order to graduate.  Note:

  • Applicants not holding the MDiv and requiring 18 hours of MDiv equivalent leveling work or less may be admitted into the program.
  • Applicants with greater than 18 hours of MDiv equivalent leveling work will not be permitted to enter the DMin program until the remaining amount of required leveling work has been reduced to 18 semester hours of MDiv equivalent leveling work or less.

Students may complete the 'leveling' work at Portland Seminary or any other ATS-accredited institution. Course grade points must average a minimum of 3.0.

Transfer Credit

Transfer credit from another doctoral program may be allowed up to a maximum or 18 semester hours. 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

All work leading to the DMin must be completed within seven years from the time of matriculation. Extension of this limit requires approval of the DMin Committee. However, only one such extension may be considered due to special circumstances, such as ill health. Program extension requests must be received prior to the conclusion of the sixth year, citing extenuating circumstances and specifying an expected date of completion. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree.

Course Requirements

The Doctor of Ministry program is generally three years in length with 36 semester hours of course work required as a minimum for graduation. A maximum of 16 semester hours of course work may be completed during one calendar year, requiring a minimum of two years for the completion of the course work. The dissertation may be completed in the third year. Of the total hours required for the degree, 28 are in prescribed Leadership and Spiritual Formation 'taught' courses, four in research, and four dissertation hours. The program also requires participation in four 'retreats'.

Leave of Absence

Because of the cohort model used for this DMin program, students must maintain full attendance throughout each module experience. However, a student in good standing who must interrupt his or her studies for compelling reasons may petition the DMin Committee for a leave of absence of not more than one year. Students who discontinue enrollment without an official leave of absence will be withdrawn and required to apply for readmission.


Students are eligible for admission to candidacy upon completion of all coursework (32 semester hours). To qualify as a doctoral candidate, each student must:

  1. Maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 with no course grade lower than a B-
  2. Submit a topic for the final dissertation and gain approval from the Dissertation Advisor

Students advanced to candidacy continue in the program. Students not advanced to candidacy are given specific guidelines for reevaluation. The doctor of ministry office will notify students of their status following the second year of the program.


All Portland Seminary Doctor of Ministry programs include the design and completion of a dissertation during the third year of the program.  The dissertation addresses both the nature and the practice of ministry.  As such, the goal of the dissertation is not to offer a unique contribution to ministry in general, but to apply theological research skills to a significant real-world ministry problem.

From the outset of the program, students are paired with a faculty advisor, who supervises the 4 customized courses over the first two years of the program. This person normally goes on to serve as a student’s dissertation advisor who will guide them in the process of research, development, and completion of the dissertation. The dissertation involves research and writing at both the theoretical and practical levels and serves to evaluate the student's competency in a specialized area of ministry related to his or her personal experience and interest. By engaging in the research courses and through the support of a dissertation advisor, each student receives guidance in choosing a research topic and preparing a proposal for the dissertation. As a prerequisite to candidacy, the student's proposal is submitted to the dissertation advisor for approval. When the dissertation is complete, the candidate submits the dissertation to two advisors: the dissertation advisor and a second advisor selected by the DMin Committee. As part of the evaluation, the candidate must give an oral defense of the dissertation before the advisors.

Track 2 Dissertation (Optional)

As an optional alternative to the traditional written dissertation, students in the program may produce a Track 2 Dissertation, which is composed of two parts: a Track 2 Artifact and a Written Statement. The Written Statement explicates the theoretical underpinnings of the Dissertation. The Track 2 Artifact incarnates a practical, real-world solution to the stated ministry problem utilizing one or more of the following media forms: audio, video, web, print. When completed, the candidates submits the Track 02 Dissertation, which includes both the Written Statement and Track 2 Artifact, to the Dissertation, Secondary, and when necessary, expert advisors. As part of the evaluation, the candidate must give an oral defense of the dissertation before the advisors.

Graduation Requirements

In order to graduate with the doctor of ministry 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 B- in all core courses. If a grade of a C+ or lower is received in a designated course, that course must be retaken (for more specific information, please refer to the student handbook).
  • Fully participate in all 'retreats'.
  • Complete any additional MDiv equivalency courses, as may be required.
  • Successfully defend the dissertation.
  • Be admitted to candidacy for the degree.
  • Be recommended by the seminary faculty for graduation from George Fox University.

Curriculum Plan

Leadership and Spiritual Formation Lead Mentor- 'Taught' Courses (16 hours)
DMIN 710 Leadership and Spiritual Formation - The Inner World of the Leader 4
DMIN 720 Leadership and Spiritual Formation - Historical and Biblical Perspectives of Leadership and Formation 4
DMIN 730 Leadership and Spiritual Formation  - Processes and Principles of Systemic Transformation 4
DMIN 740 Leadership and Spiritual Formation - Cultural, Artistic, and Global Engagement
Faculty Advisor Courses (12 hours) 
DMIN 716 Customized Course I 3
DMIN 726 Customized Course II 3
DMIN 736 Customized Course III 3
DMIN 746 Customized Course IV 3
Research Courses (4 hours)
DMIN 713 Introduction to Research and Resources 1
DMIN 723 Developing a Topic for Research 1
DMIN 733 Designing a Research Model 1
DMIN 743 Writing the Dissertation 1
Dissertation (4 hours)
DMIN 800 Dissertation 4
DMIN 805 Dissertation Continuation (continuation as required‡) 1

‡Students must maintain continuous enrollment in the dissertation continuation until completion. DMIN 805 is required for students who do not finish their dissertation research within the minimum 4 hours. DMIN 805 is repeatable each fall and spring until the dissertation is finished.

Seminary Course Descriptions