Doctoral Project Portfolio

At Portland Seminary, we value what you bring to the table ... as a person, ministry leader, and as someone called by God to fill a need in the world that only you can fill.

The seminary's three-year doctoral research process takes this into account. We recognize each student has individual gifts, passions, and callings. Our approach to collaborative design for ministry and nonprofit contexts enables you to engage with stakeholders to address a challenge, customize your learning experience, and apply what you discover.

The Research Journey

This has been a wonderfully challenging process! In fact, the most fun I have had doing research. Thank you for putting together this creative and innovative program and process. I have loved it from beginning to end!
- Chi Yun, Hospital Chaplain

The 22-credit-hour research sequence is divided into a series of milestone assignments organized around three stages: Discover, Design, and Deliver. These milestones facilitate a clear sense of progress, moments to celebrate and timely graduation.

Ultimately, the goal of the process is to develop competency in addressing a real-world Need, Problem, or Opportunity (NPO) and provide you with expertise in your chosen area of research.

In This Three-Year Program, You Will:

  • Gain experience in addressing a need, problem, or opportunity (NPO)
  • Develop a Doctoral Project
  • Earn a doctorate

Year One: Discover

  • Identify a need, problem, or opportunity (NPO) from your context to research
  • Connect with project faculty for guidance
  • Engage stakeholders: those impacted by your NPO research
Portland Seminary doctoral program classroom

NPO Discovery Workshop

Explore the nuances of the NPO with stakeholders

Topic Exploration Essay

Demonstrate academic and theological conversancy surrounding the NPO topic

Expect 10-12 hours per week of research

Under the guidance of your project faculty mentor, you will engage a variety of stakeholders from your context in a grassroots discovery process to assess the real needs of those impacted by the need, problem, or opportunity (NPO). The findings are summarized in an NPO Charter, and the following semester you immerse yourself in the theological and academic literature relevant to your research to understand the NPO more deeply.

I appreciated the Discover, Design and Deliver process, as well as the encouragement to approach the process with open hands, allowing answers to emerge rather than forcing preconceived solutions.”
- Darcy Hansen, Seminary Educator & Spiritual Director

Year Two: Design

  • Design Workshop: Explore solutions to a need, problem or opportunity (NPO) with stakeholders
  • Background Research: Do further bibliographic research related to your emerging solution
  • Create, Test, and Explore: Test the viability of possible solutions to identify the Most Viable Prototype (MVP) of the project

You’ll brainstorm ideas for addressing the NPO with another group of stakeholders and experts from your context, further research literature related to your emerging solution, and create and test a prototype. Based on your findings, you’ll identify your MVP.

The whole project and research were personally transformative for me...not just a solution for my church. I'm really grateful to have spiritually grown in this process and to have developed a project I'm proud of, a project that is original, and a project that will have life well beyond this degree.”
- Adam Barton, Lead Pastor

Year Three: Deliver

  • Develop: Create a practical solution (book, website, business plan, app, etc.)
  • Gather early feedback: Identify improvements to the project
  • Deliver: Submit your doctoral project, launch plan, and project portfolio for the final evaluation

In the third year, you will submit a doctoral project delivery plan for approval to identify the project's scope, benchmarks of success, and development timeline. You next develop your doctoral project and gather early feedback. After evaluating and reporting your progress, you’ll make further improvements on the project. Finally, you’ll develop a post-graduation launch and sustainability strategy. 

An evaluation committee assesses the Doctoral Project, Project Launch Plan, and Project Portfolio. After corrections, you prepare the Project Portfolio for archival to the University's Digital Commons for DMin Projects or DLd Projects.

Professional Enhancement

In the final portfolio, you will produce a doctoral project – such as a curriculum, church program, action plan, academic article, website, nonprofit business plan, etc. – and a learning launch plan for next steps following graduation.

As an outcome of the research process, you will:

Example Projects

Our students create practical solutions to address a challenge in their ministry context. Examples of past doctoral projects include:

  • A spiritual assessment tool to address digital media use for teens and parents
  • A podcast for home health and hospice nurses addressing burnout during COVID
  • The curriculum for an eight-week course for the Pentecostal denomination on the spiritual care of the dying, and grieving loved ones
  • Seminary spiritual formation courses on grief and shadow work
  • A third space for Gen Z that hosts workshops, think tanks, parties, cooking classes, seminars, and so forth. It focuses on building relationships outside of the church and engaging in pre-evangelism.
  • A business plan for a coffee-house and yoga studio that provides a curated, third space for people to explore their spiritual journeys
  • A consulting group that helps churches develop a digital presence 
  • An app for a church to use to onramp new church leaders 
  • A website that promotes cooperation among Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) institutions
  • Group spiritual direction sessions contextualized for Tokyo, Japan
  • Popular books that address various practical ministry or leadership concerns. Examples include:
    • Impressions and Arrows: Forming Faithful Preteen Hearts 
    • Idea Explosion: How Churches Can Create More Ideas
    • The Love Effect: Crossing Our Divides Together Into Flourishing
    • Storied Discipleship: 9 Practices for Jesus-Shaped Living
    • Rediscovering the Hospitality of Jesus as the Mission Tone of the Church

Hear Min Soo Choi's Story

Watch video: Hear Min Soo Choi's Story


Haley Holman

Haley Holman

Admissions Counselor, Portland Seminary