Doctor of Ministry Curriculum
The Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) with an emphasis in The Pastor as Spiritual Leader (PSL) requires:
  • Two three-week intensive on-campus periods of study—two successive Januarys (three
    weeks in 2013 and 2014), followed by a total of six more weeks on campus during the
    D.Min. Summer Term (these six weeks may be divided by the student into separate, two-week sessions over more than one year);
  • A supervised practicum in the student's own ministry setting (between January intensives); and
  • The completion of a Dissertation/Project.

    Students in this emphasis are also required to be in spiritual direction.

The D.Min./PSL cohort meets on campus for two three-week sessions in January 2013 and 2014.  Students in the D.Min./PSL will be on campus alongside students enrolled in the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction—sharing in worship, meals, and in class together for two courses. In addition to course sessions each morning, the D.Min./PSL students will be in afternoon small groups facilitated by staff.  These small groups allow students to integrate their learning and formation with their peers in a climate of confidentiality, honesty, reciprocity and prayer.


First Seminar: The Art of Christian Listening (3 units)
This course concentrates on the development of contemplative sensibilities and skills necessary for the practice of spiritual leadership and guidance. Students explore how one notices and attends to the experience of God's presence within oneself (intrapersonally), through others (interpersonally), and in the larger world (systems, structures, and creation) as revealed in prayer, scripture, theology, developmental sciences and through a growing awareness of mind, body, feelings, and desire. Lectures, discussion, readings, small groups, and contemplative listening practice. Final integrative paper required.
Instructors: Samuel Hamilton-Poore, D.Min.; Sophia Park, PhD; and Susan Phillips, PhD

Second Seminar: Prayer and Discernment in Pastoral Ministry (3 units)
This course concentrates on the biblical and theological foundations for Christian spirituality, pastoral ministry and congregational leadership, with a special focus on the importance of prayer and discernment in the practice of ministry and leadership. Students will explore the church/congregation as the primary locus for Christian spiritual formation, prayer, and discernment, as well as the necessity of the pastor to attend to his/her own spiritual life. Lectures, discussions, readings, small groups (including the practice of various forms of prayer and discernment). Final paper synthesizing readings, lectures, discussions and experiences required.
Instructor: Timothy Hessel-Robinson, PhD


First Seminar: Discernment: Systems and Nature (3 units)
This course is designed to develop an understanding of discernment and discernment processes in the arena of systems, structures and nature. Participants engage in a "Social Discernment Cycle" that encourages systematic thinking, helps individuals perceive how God is at work in systems and structures (such as the church), and promotes active response. The theological basis for social discernment and the linkage between experiences in systems, structures and spirituality will be highlighted. Discernment in the eco-environmental arena will also be explicitly explored. Lectures, discussions, small group exercises, prayer experiences, reading and required papers.
Instructor: Elizabeth Liebert, Ph.D.

Second Seminar: The Role of the Pastor as Spiritual Leader (3 units)
Building on the insights of the First Seminar (Discernment: Systems and Nature), this course further explores the role of the pastor as spiritual leader within the system of a congregation and how the faithful exercise of this role (or office) may assist the church as a system in the direction of spiritual growth and effective ministry. Attention will be given to the various tasks of pastoral ministry (e.g., preaching, worship leadership, teaching, pastoral care, administration) in light of the dynamics of spiritual formation.
Lectures, discussions, readings, small group exercises and prayer and required papers.
Instructors: TBA

During the year following the first on-campus intensive (January 2013), each student engages in an individual project under the supervision of the Director of the Program in Christian Spirituality. Students design, implement and evaluate a short-term project that applies material from the January intensive (readings, lectures, small group praxis) to his/her pastoral ministry (e.g., a sermon, worship, and/or teaching series; church officer training events; small group formation). The project requires a synthesis paper that includes the student's own theology of ministry. Students will also identify at least five books that may be useful in shaping their dissertation-project.


The summer residential term at SFTS consists of two resource seminars, a seminar in research design leading to the formulation of a Dissertation/Project (D/P) topic proposal, and a frontier seminar that focuses on one contemporary issue at the cutting edge of the church's mission. Students in the D.Min./PSL will live, worship, and study alongside all other students enrolled in the D.Min., and may select from among a variety of resource and frontier seminar offerings.

The summer term concludes with a candidacy interview during which students meet individually with a faculty team to examine written evaluations of course work and to review their progress. Students are advanced to candidacy only after: 1) recommendation to the faculty by the interview team, and 2) the approval of a D/P topic. If the interview team recommends further work before beginning the D/P, any additional costs are borne by the student.


The purpose of the Dissertation/Project (D/P)  is to develop the skills involved in an objective investigation into an issue or aspect of the student's own ministry. The work must demonstrate relevance to the mission of the church, theological foundations, methodological rationale, and a process of critical evaluation. The D/P also involves accountability or reporting to a church body (e.g., presbytery, conference, diocese, or other faith community) and an oral presentation.

Dissertation/Projects in the D.Min./PSL will focus on some aspect of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation, the pastor as spiritual leader, and/or the congregation as a primary context for spiritual formation. As is the case with all D.Min. programs at SFTS, the D/P may be any one of the following:

  • Academic research project
  • Participant/observer study of a social issue
  • Action research on some activity of ministry (e.g., preaching, administration, religious education, or liturgy)
  • Analysis of the therapeutic or educational processes of the church
  • Creative work such as a novel, play, or film, which must also include a critical dissertation.

The D/P begins with the development of a two-page topic statement including a summary of the problem, area of inquiry and/or hypothesis; a summary of the purpose of the inquiry and the methodology to be employed; an initial bibliography; and a proposed advisor. If the advisor is not a member of the faculty of SFTS/Graduate Theological Union, the student must provide the proposed advisor's curriculum vitae to the Advanced Pastoral Studies committee for approval.

When both the topic and the advisor have been approved, the D.Min. student is accepted for degree candidacy. Successful completion and acceptance of the Dissertation/Project by the APS committee is required for the degree. For more specific information regarding the criteria and process for approval, please request a copy of the Guide to the Dissertation/Project.


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