MDIV: Spiritual Formation

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Master of Divinity: Spiritual Formation

Northwest Nazarene University's graduate programs in Spiritual Formation explore the history, philosophy, theology and practices of spirituality in the Christian tradition. Students grow through personal and professional incorporation of their learning, classroom interactions and a mentoring relationship that spans their degree programs. Earn an M.Div. within 50 months or an M.A. in less than two years without any residential requirements.

Students in NNU's MDIVSF program complete an online orientation, 42 credits in their pastoral ministry core, and 32 hours of emphasis in Spiritual Formation. After completing an online orientation, students focus their studies strictly around the eight Spiritual Formation courses, which is their area of emphasis.

MDIVSF students can complete their degree program one course at a time in as little as 50 months, with most summers free. Our MDIVSF program has been validated as meeting the educational requirements for ordination as elders in the Church of the Nazarene*.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify, or students may take advantage of a zero interest monthly payment plan. Avoid expensive travel costs associated with modular programs at other seminaries, not to mention costly time away from home and your workplace. Tuition discounts are also available to assigned Nazarene clergy.

Be part of an online community of learners with global reach, experience personalized mentorship from course to course, and earn your degree from a university with both regional accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities and associate membership in The Association of Theological Schools

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*While this NNU program has been validated by Nazarene Clergy Services as meeting the educational requirements for ordination, denominational polity gives final authority on such matters to the district, not to general authorities.

Course Descriptions


All Master of Divinity students enroll in our zero-credit online program orientation.   

PRTH6000. OnRamp Program Orientation (0 credit): This course orients students to the resources, procedures, electronic operations, and expectations of the program. 


BIBL7580. Biblical Interpretation for Life & Ministry (4 credits): This course seeks to upgrade students' use of Scripture in personal spiritual formation in their ministry by focused attention to several critical tasks involved in biblical interpretation. This interpretive work will aid in the development of the spiritual discipline of "listening to the text".

CHIS6580. Sources for Wesleyan Spirituality (4 credits): This course is designed to provide a historical underpinning for spiritual formation by examining Wesley's theological sources.  Particular attention will be given to how these sources have contributed to Wesley's understanding of the spiritual disciplines and the means of grace.

PHIL7580. Theoretical Foundations for Spiritual Formation (4 credits):  This course explores the theoretical foundations, or basic assumptions, of spiritual formation.  The course will be primarily concerned with issues related to human anthropology and the development of the self.  This will include study in the following areas: critical reasoning, human psychology, and character development. 

PRTH6180. Introduction to Spiritual Formation (4 credits): This course gives an intensive examination of the discipline of spiritual formation.  Particular emphasis will be placed on the examination and practice of the fourteen Disciplines of Spiritual Formation with the purpose of helping students in their personal spiritual formation.

PRTH6880. Nurturing the Inner Life (4 credits): This course explores the lifelong processes and goals of Christian spiritual formation from biblical, theological, psychological, and historical perspectives. Students practice historic Christian disciplines as means of grace to promote intimacy with God, healthier physical and emotional habits, maturing character, and love for others.

PRTH7580. Spirituality of Soul Care (4 credits): This is a course designed to give a small group, intensive experience in which the relationship between spiritual formation and ordained ministry is considered. The course includes examination of the minister as person, professional, and practitioner.  The small group will be located in the locale of the student.  It will be made up of ministers and laypersons who will provide the optimum group experience.

PRTH7980. Spiritual Direction (4 credits): This course explores the meaning and place, as well as some of the models and dynamics, of the ministry of spiritual direction through an intensive experience. Participants will experience being mentored by a spiritual director, receive feedback on their own ministry of offering spiritual direction, and consider the place of spiritual direction within their own ministries.  A reflective journal of spiritual direction will be required. The spiritual mentor will be someone located in the locale of the student.

THEO6580. Readings in Western Spirituality (4 credits): Students will read contemporary theological works and explore their relation to spiritual formation. Critical analysis of the different theologies will provide the student with an understanding of contemporary currents and issues in spiritual formation.


BIBL6760. Old Testament Interpretation (3 credits):  This course introduces key strategies and exegetical tools particular to interpreting the Old Testament. Students will develop exegetical skills and the ability to recognize Scripture's theological texture through study of selected texts from the different genres of the Old Testament. 

BIBL7760. New Testament Interpretation (3 credits): This course introduces key strategies and exegetical tools particular to interpreting the New Testament. Students will develop exegetical skills and the ability to recognize Scripture's theological texture through study of selected texts from the different genres of the New Testament. 

BIBL8090. Advanced Biblical Exegesis (3 credits):  An in-depth exegetical study of an Old Testament and/or New Testament book(s).  The course will emphasize the historical occasion, purpose and theological message of the selected biblical books.  It will survey relevant contemporary biblical hermeneutics.  It will utilize inductive, grammatical, historical-critical, literary, and reader-oriented exegetical methods.  The course will self-consciously focus on interpretation within and for the believing community.

CHED6160. Congregational Education & Formation (3 credits): The course provides a Wesleyan approach to Christian discipleship by integrating Wesleyan theology and current developmental theories. The course explores how pastors can develop educational ministries that foster faith formation and Christian discipleship in local congregations. Particular attention is given to the role congregations play in forming faith disciples through teaching, worship, and congregational life.

CHIS6560. History of Christianity I (3 credits):  A study of the historical development of Christianity from 150-1500 C.E., from the Patristic period through pre-Reformation.  The course will trace theological and doctrinal development as well as offer a general survey of the history of the Church in its ecclesiastical and cultural contexts.  The student will have opportunity to read primary as well as secondary sources, and do research on a specified and focused area of interest.

CHIS6960. History of Christianity II (3 credits):  A study of the historical development of Christianity from 1500-present, C.E., from the Reformation through the 20th century.  The course will trace theological and doctrinal development as well as offer a general survey of the history of the Church in its ecclesiastical and cultural contexts.  The student will have opportunity to read primary as well as secondary sources, and do research on a specified and focused area of interest.

PHIL7560. Philosophical Foundations of Ministry (3 credits):  This course will provide the fundamentals for logical reasoning, review the philosophical foundations of theology, explore contemporary issues in the philosophy of religion, and develop methods for making ethical decisions within the framework of Christian values.

PRTH6760. Spiritual & Personal Formation (3 credits): This course examines spiritual formational practices with particular emphasis on the personal and spiritual formation of the minister. Students will gain personal spiritual formational practices for the purpose of developing them holistically. 

PRTH6960. Missiology & Contextualization (3 credits):  This course provides a study of the challenge and complexity of mission within the cultural diversity of today's world.  Students will review the historical dimensions of missiology, develop biblical and theological foundations for missional ecclesiology, and strategize for cross-cultural communication of the gospel.

PRTH6990. Supervised Ministry (3 credits): Under the direction of a ministry mentor, students will be involved in practical ministry experience in a local ministry context. Special attention will be given to preaching, counseling, teaching, education, evangelism, and administration. This experience will be under the direction of the instructor in cooperation with the supervising ministry mentor.

PRTH7560. Pastoral Leadership (3 credits): This course will help to equip ministers to lead and manage churches and mission agencies.  Special attention will be given to the student's ability to conceive and articulate purpose, mission, and vision for ministry and assist the student to develop the strategic means to realize that vision.

PRTH7960. Preaching & Worship (3 credits): An advanced study of the methods of homiletics as well as applying principles of biblical interpretation to worship and preaching.  A major focus of the course will be on practical application to selected biblical passages through the writing and preaching of expository sermons as well as a study of the Christian practices of the Church including baptism, funerals, weddings, and the Eucharist. 

THEO7560. Christian Theology I: Wesleyan Theology (3 credits): Students will explore the theological issues pertaining to the classical doctrines of the Wesleyan tradition.  This exploration will focus upon the main characteristics of the nature of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the human person, sin, salvation, the Christian life, the Church and sacraments, and eschatology. 

THEO7960. Christian Theology II:  Contemporary Theology (3 credits):  Students will reflect theologically on life and ministry by exploring various sources of theological reflection.  In particular, dominant themes and figures in contemporary theology will be explored.  In this exploration, students will compare and contrast distinctive characteristics of Wesleyan theology, including various understandings of holiness, with issues found in contemporary theology.

Program Outcomes

  • The graduate understands and is able to explain Wesleyan-Holiness Theology as it relates to Scripture, Christian tradition, reason, and experience in the practice of ministry.
  • The graduate identifies characteristics of the cultural context of ministry and assesses them through an appropriate theological perspective, compares existing cultures with alternative cultural expressions, and develops personal and corporate practices consistent with the Kingdom of God.
  • The graduate practices the means of grace (spiritual disciplines) that lead to emotional and spiritual health, personal Christian theological virtue, and responsible social engagement.
  • The graduate integrates Christian theological themes in the understanding and practice of ministry and leadership.
  • The graduate integrates the various ways spiritual formation may be part of the ministries of a local church in teaching, worship, preaching, and mission.
  • The graduate understands and develops spiritual formation practices, under the supervision of a mentor, that foster personal and spiritual growth.
  • The graduate practices the role of being a spiritual director, by utilizing spiritual formation practices, to a local group in their ministry context.
  • The graduate assesses spiritual journeys, individual and communities, for the purpose of creating a spiritual formation plan that will stimulate growth in acts of piety and mercy, i.e. inward and outward holiness.