Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics, Church, and Culture

At A Glance

38 Semester credit hours
$648* Cost per semester credit hour
3 Years Program length


ATS (Association of Theological Schools), NWCCU


Hybrid (online courses with 3 in-person Advance intensives in Jackson, Michigan; Cambridge, UK; and Orcas Island, Washington)

Tuition cost for entire program

$24,624* (plus $1,500 per in-person Advance intensive)

* All stated financial information is subject to change. Financial aid available.

Len Sweet with Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics, Church and Culture students

Proactive Ministry
in an always-changing culture

with Len Sweet

What are the signs of the times? Portland Seminary’s Semiotics, Church, and Culture Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program addresses this very question and others associated with the study of semiotics.

He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

Matthew 16:2-3.

The bigger question is, how will you use your newfound skills in exegeting biblical and cultural metaphors, narratives, and images to recognize the signs of Jesus' work in the world? How do you learn to see beyond the obvious?

Whatever your answer, think broadly, as graduates of the program serve as denominational leaders, pastors and church planters, nonprofit leaders, and educators.

What Will I Experience?

The final cohort under the guidance of lead mentor Dr. Leonard Sweet begins in the fall 2024 semester, promising a comprehensive and enriching three-year experience for qualified applicants seeking to deepen their understanding of semiotics, church dynamics, and cultural engagement. 

Dr. Sweet affectionately refers to his students as "Issacharians," drawing inspiration from the ancient Israelites known for understanding the times and discerning the way forward (I Chron. 12:32). For nearly two decades, Dr. Sweet has dedicated himself to shaping Issacharians, equipping them to interpret the signs of our contemporary era and minister effectively to a dynamic culture through the teachings of Jesus.

Sweet has guided more than 300 students through this program, leaving an indelible mark on their lives. This is your last chance to become a part of our legacy of Issacharians, shaping the future of ministry in a complex and evolving world.


Areas of Emphasis

The DMin in Semiotics, Church, and Culture program emphasizes:

  • How to recognize the signs of Jesus' work in the world. Like the Tribe of Issachar in ancient Israel, you will learn to “read the signs of the times and know what to do” (I Chronicles 12:32), providing you insight into how to proactively guide churches and ministries into the future.
  • Telling the story of Jesus. Dr. Sweet takes symbols, signs, images, and stories seriously. He will help you unpack cultural and biblical signs and symbols so that we can tell the story of Jesus in a way that is compelling, convincing and transformative. The ultimate sign to read is Jesus himself.
  • Collaborative Research and Design. A project faculty member will help you address a ministry challenge from your own context through the Project Portfolio research sequence.

You will gain competency to confidently lead in a fast-changing culture; an ability to communicate the gospel in a compelling manner; a lifelong learning community; and expertise to become a "Doctor of the Church."

What is Semiotics?

Watch video: "What is Semiotics?" Dr. Leonard Sweet explains.

Program Details

Dr. Len Sweet

Lead-mentor Directed

Lead mentor Dr. Leonard Sweet sets the overall inspiration, ethos and direction of the program and oversees coursework. You will take six courses related to program themes with him over the first two years. He teaches sessions at the Advances, facilitates weekly video conversations with the cohort, and participates in the Project Portfolio examination.

Portland Seminary program cohort meets in small peer groups

Online and Flexible

Cohorts meet once a week for a Zoom conversation with Dr. Sweet and engage in online forum discussions with the cohort on their own schedule throughout the week. Students also regularly interact with their project faculty in small peer groups each semester.


Groups of 12 to 18 students journey together through the entire program. The cohort provides a peer-learning network for research, insights, and personal ministry experiences.


Students participate in one online orientation to begin the program and three face-to-face intensives (or what we call Advances) at the Fossores Chapter House in Jackson, Michigan; the Westcott House in Cambridge, UK; and the Sanctuary Seaside in Orcas Island, WashingtonA. During the Advances, students participate in sessions with Len Sweet, connect with their cohort, and engage with their project faculty member around their research.

Portland Seminary faculty mentor talking with student

Project Portfolio

In the Project Portfolio research sequence, you will journey through a series of milestone assignments to develop a doctoral project that addresses a Need, Problem, or Opportunity (NPO) in your ministry context.

Project Faculty

Students are paired with a project faculty member for three years. Project faculty join students at key Advances and meet regularly online in peer groups to guide them in their research.


Spotlight on Student Experience

Watch video: Pastor Jeff Tacklind shares about his experience in the Semiotics, Church, and Culture Doctor of Ministry program.

Napkin Scribbles

Listen to Dr. Sweet as he explains "Jesus Semiotics" in more detail in this six-minute Napkin Scribbles podcast:

Join the conversation on the Napkin Scribbles Facebook page.

Access Napkin Scribbles on all of the major platforms, including iTunes, Spotify,, Stitcher.

Related Doctoral Programs

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives classroom

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives
with Dr. Jason Swan Clark

Develops confident Christian leaders who make a difference in an interconnected world. Face-to-face intensives meet in Cape Town, Oxford, and Washington DC.

Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation cohort with Dr. MaryKateMorse in one of their academic retreats

Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Spiritual Formation
with Dr. MaryKate Morse

Forms Christ-centered professionals to re-imagine God’s mission in diverse environments.


Haley Holman

Haley Holman

Admissions Counselor, Portland Seminary

George Fox University is required to make cost of attendance (COA) information publicly available on this website.