Academic Departments

Frequently Asked Questions

What is spiritual formation?
Spiritual formation is the process by which God forms believers in the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit. This process of formation in Christ’s likeness begins at conversion with the impartation of new life and a restored or reconciled relationship with God. Being formed in Christ’s image is the present reality and destiny of every believer (2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:29). Believers are exhorted not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1-2). The fruit or evidence of this inner transformation by the Spirit is a growing love for God and others. (See our expanded definition.)
How do the four semesters of Spiritual Formation contribute to the student’s spiritual formation?
The first semester, Identity, is designed to help students discover their identity in Christ as well as their unique identity (e.g., temperament, spiritual gifts, heritage). Students explore how their identity affects the way in which they live and serve. Here, the student asks, “Who am I? Where do I come from?” “How will my life look different because I am a follower of Christ?” Students write and share a paper on the theological and biblical foundations of identity, with an emphasis on the personal implications of what it means to be "in Christ."

The second semester, Community, focuses on who we are together. Students explore the various ways in which God has worked in their individual lives, identifying those relationships and experiences that have been particularly formative. Here the student asks, “How has God authored my life?” “Who are we as the body of Christ?” Community and trust develop as each student shares their Life Story.

In the third semester, Integrity, students identify individual areas of struggle and how God fosters and enables change in our lives. Students find encouragement and support in sharing their struggles and failures with a caring group of fellow-travelers, their SF group. They practice spiritual disciplines that will deepen their dependence on God’s Spirit. Here the student asks, “In what areas do I need to grow?” “How can I yield to the Spirit’s transformative work in my life?” “How can we support one another?”

In the fourth semester, Fidelity, students explore where and how they might serve others in the name of Christ. As each student shares their Life Vision presentation, the group provides encouragement, feedback, and direction. Here, the student asks, “What is my purpose or calling?” “Considering my identity, story, and gifts, what are some potential ministry roles or destinations?” “What steps do I need to take to prepare for these possibilities?”
Do other seminaries address spiritual formation as part of the program of study?
Spiritual Formation may be the most discussed topic among today’s theological educators. Evangelical seminaries such as Denver, Talbot, Gordon-Conwell, Trinity, Regent, and North Park have added spiritual formation to their programs. All see the need to overcome increased individualization and privatization in western spirituality; all realize the cultural influences mounted against developing community; all have increasing numbers of students from non-Christian backgrounds.
How much time does an SF group require?
SF groups meet for about 1.5 - 2 hours per week. Group members spend about 1 hour per week in preparation for each group session. In addition, many groups plan additional social gatherings or service projects.
How long is the SF program?
Spiritual Formation begins with either SF101 or SF201 in the student’s first fall semester. The student continues for four consecutive fall and spring semesters (two years).
Can I start SF in the spring or summer semester?
Beginning with the Identity semester (SF101 or SF201), new Spiritual Formation groups begin in the fall semester ONLY.
Will I stay in the same group each semester?
Students continue with the same SF group for all four semesters.
When do Spiritual Formation groups meet?
SF groups meet on various days and at different times. Spiritual Formation sections are available during lunchtime on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday (11:30 am—12:50 pm). There are evening groups that meet on Monday or Tuesday evenings (7:00—8:30 pm). Couples groups meet on Sunday afternoons.
Should my spouse and I join a couples group?
The demands of seminary education and ministry preparation can place great stress on a student’s marriage. Joining a couples group can strengthen the marriage relationship by providing opportunities for the student and their spouse to reflect on their lives, their ministry, and their seminary experience, in the context of mutually supportive relationships with other ministry couples.
How does SF benefit the seasoned minister?
All students, no matter what their life stage or ministry experience, benefit from community with fellow seminary students who are in a similar season of intense ministry preparation. SF groups provide a unique opportunity for learning and mutual edification with a diverse group of students from all over the world and all stages of life.
What kind of preparation will my leader have?
SF leaders are volunteers who desire to be instrumental in the spiritual formation of fellow students. Based on certain criteria, they are selected by the Spiritual Formation Staff, trained in leadership and small group facilitation, and coached by a member of the Spiritual Formation staff for the duration of their SF group leadership.
Why does the SF staff choose group leaders from among DTS students rather than from faculty or area ministers?
DTS faculty, staff, and area ministers may apply to lead an SF small group. Some SF leaders come from these ranks. However, the vast majority of the SF small groups are peer-led, which affords many advantages for the student, for the peer leaders, and for the Seminary. For the students, peer leaders have great empathy for their fellow-students. For the peer leaders, they receive additional training and instruction in today’s most discussed area of Seminary education and training. In addition, all peer leaders attend their SF small groups as participants. They approach the group with openness, ready to learn. For the Seminary, peer leadership allows the Seminary to expand its influence in the preparation of these students; this promotes leadership development and competency outside the classroom, yet under the supervision of the faculty and SFL Department. Thus, peer leaders enjoy a safe and supervised laboratory for developing their education and training in leadership and small group facilitation.
How are any conflicts handled in a group?
The SF Staff anticipates and prepares leaders for potential conflicts because human interaction includes conflict. Likewise, the student should expect and anticipate conflicts to surface at some point in future ministry. The Spiritual Formation Staff expects SF group members to work together through their conflicts, to reconcile and restore all group members, and to make every effort toward unity within the group. Our Staff is available to come alongside a leader or group as needed to work through any conflicts.