MA, Spiritual Formation

Deep and Focused Spiritual Formation Training 

Our Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation equips students to serve as leaders of  spiritual formation ministries and spiritual directors in the church, community and world. Request more information

Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation at a Glance

Semester hours 36
Average Completion Time Two years (Based on taking 8 credit hours of study per term in the fall and spring semesters, 4 credit hours in the summer semester)
Cost per credit $576* (financial aid available)
Accreditation Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities;
Association of Theological Schools
Location Portland Center (near Tigard), with distance format options
Specializations Spiritual Formation OR Spiritual Direction
Application Deadlines Rolling application deadline; apply now for the next fall cohort

*All stated financial information is subject to change.

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The MASF program will:

  • Equip you for work with individuals or groups in spiritual formation and discipleship.
  • Encourage your spiritual growth and strengthen your moral integrity for service to God’s mission
  • Strengthen your understanding of the various disciplines that undergird the ministry of formation and discipleship

Students will:

  • Develop habits of authentic disciplines for living holistically in today’s world
  • Experience themselves and relate to others as created in God's image and called into community and ministry
  • Demonstrate a critical and constructive understanding of the biblical and theological foundations of the Christian tradition of formation and discipleship
  • Articulate an understanding of formation and discipleship as it relates to the mission of God in the world
  • Demonstrate the character and skills necessary for spiritually guiding individuals and communities in the Christian tradition of formation and discipleship

Which spiritual formation degree is right for you?

Masters in Spiritual Formation

The master of arts in spiritual formation (MASF) degree is for people who are called to formation and discipleship ministries such as directors of women's, men's, or children’s ministries, spiritual directors, and retreat ministries. Individuals pursuing an MASF degree would have gifts for listening, companioning and guiding people’s spiritual journeys, and creating formation environments such as retreats.

Masters in Ministry with a Specialization in Spiritual Formation

The master of arts in ministry (MAM) with a spiritual formation specialization is for those persons who are called to leadership ministries in the church or parachurch, such as associate pastors, justice advocates, campus pastors, etc. The MAM is a leadership degree and adding a spiritual formation concentration allows the leader to focus more on his or her own personal spiritual growth.

Also consider spiritual direction programs:

Spiritual Formation

At the heart of Portland Seminary, historically, is a commitment to the spiritual formation of its students. Formation into Christlikeness prepares the whole person to engage the world for the sake of Christ.

We fulfill this commitment in these ways:

  • Every degree program involves students in an intentionally designed spiritual formation curriculum.
  • The courses include classic spiritual disciplines as well as intentional holistic awareness.
  • Our spiritual formation curriculum is biblically grounded and Christ-centered, and our understanding of spiritual formation involves the intersection of Scripture, theology, psychology, and sociocultural factors.
  • Spiritual formation courses are scheduled so that students can participate in formation courses throughout their degree program.
  • Each spiritual formation course combines rich academic content, formational activities, accountability, and fellowship, offering students a robust experience.

MA, Spiritual Formation (36 Credit Hours)

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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 key individuals within Christianity, both East and West 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 & discipleship? What is the spiritual leader's role? and How does formation & 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.
Part I of a course that builds the capacity of women and men to effectively develop ministry 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.)

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