The mission of the Spiritual Formation ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary is helping servant-leaders pursue Christlikeness. Our ministry exists to glorify God and make disciples by providing a relational context and biblical curriculum to help servant-leaders:
Spiritual Formation groups of five to six students gather weekly for four consecutive fall and spring semesters to pray, reflect on biblical truth, examine their hearts, share and respond. As group members grow together in Spiritual maturity and Christlike character, the potential for significant relationships and ministry partnerships is established.
The Spiritual Formation program is designed to help facilitate students’ growth in four areas:
At the core, spiritual formation is profoundly Trinitarian. It is simply this: the process by which God forms believers into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This beautiful reality is woven through the fabric of the New Testament. In Greek, the morphē (μορφή /μορφόω) word group is used to describe concepts related to formation and transformation. This spiritual formation is the earnest desire of Paul and the goal of his ministry (Gal 4:19). More significant than that is what we find in Romans 8:28-29 where we see (among many other things) that this spiritual formation is God’s goal for us!
Far more than being God’s goal for us, the tense of the verb in 2 Corinthians 3:18 demonstrates that not only is our transformation God’s future goal for us, it is also a present reality! “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” This present reality, this formation, is happening through the agency of the third Person of the Trinity.
Interestingly, we find that not only is this formation God’s goal for us and a present reality done in us through the Holy Spirit, it is also a command to us! The two imperatives in Romans 12:2 exhort believers not to conform to the world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of the mind—something that can only be done by yielding to the Holy Spirit to work in us as he will. Finally, it is this formation by the third Person of the Trinity into the image of the second Person of the Trinity for the Glory of the first Person of the Trinity that should drive the Christian life. In Colossians 1:27-29 we see spiritual formation presented as our hope, our motivation, and our telos. Praise God for his continued work in our lives!
Recognizing that this formation is of the Spirit and not through any work of man, our program is an intentional attempt to provide a vital context for life change. Through a scripturally grounded study of what it is to be in Christ, in authentic Christian community, and called to a life of faithfulness, our prayer is that students would be equipped and encouraged. Our prayer is that each of our students would look more like Jesus at the end of each semester than they did when they walked in. To God alone be the glory!
We recognize that in some circles the term “spiritual formation” has taken on a very different connotation than the above. Spiritual Formation at Dallas Theological Seminary should be in no way associated with the so-called “contemplative prayer movement” that pursues enlightenment of the self rather than Christlikeness. We do not promote or endorse any form of eastern mysticism, higher consciousness, divinity within the self, or any practice that promotes entering into an altered or transcendent state of consciousness. These dangerous and heterodox teachings often masquerade as Christian spirituality. We categorically reject these practices and their claims. Our foundation is Scriptural. Our goal is Christological. The method is Pneumatalogical. Our intentions are doxological.
Required for: ThM, MACP, MAAE, MACE, MACL, MAMW, MACM, MABEL, MACS, and MA-OT/NT/TS degree students.
Students at the Dallas, Houston, or Washington, DC sites fulfill their Spiritual Formation requirement through enrolling in the four semester SF5100 course. In the fall of each year, SF5100 students will be placed in campus SF groups. Students may choose to register for a women’s, men’s, or couple’s group. Married students are highly encouraged to join a couple’s group. Because students participate with the same group during four consecutive semesters, they should plan their schedules so they meet on the same day and at the same time each semester. In addition to their SF5100 group participation, students may choose to concurrently enroll in any of the four companion elective courses for 1 hour of academic credit per semester: SF5201, SF5202, SF5203, and SF5204. These courses require additional assignments which would be submitted to the SF staff through online.dts.edu.
With SF staff approval, extension students who will not be attending the Dallas, Houston, or Washington, DC campuses fulfill their Spiritual Formation requirement by completing the two semester SF5110 Mentored Spiritual Formation course. Students participating in the SF5110 course may also choose to concurrently enroll in any of the four companion elective courses for 1 hour of academic credit each: SF5201, SF5202, SF5203, and SF5204. These courses require additional assignments which would be submitted to the SF staff through online.dts.edu.
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?”
Each campus hosts various Spiritual Formation events throughout the year, some of which are required as part of the SF5100 course. Specific details can be found in your syllabus. Feel free to contact your campus SF team with questions.
Dallas & Houston: SF groups meet for 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.
Washington, DC: SF groups on the DC campus have a slightly different schedule. Contact the campus coordinator for details.
The Spiritual Formation (SF5100) program continues for four consecutive fall and spring semesters (two years). Therefore, we recommend students begin Spiritual Formation early in their degree program.
Beginning with the Identity semester (SF5100-1), new Spiritual Formation groups begin in the fall semester ONLY.
Yes, students continue with the same SF group for all four semesters.
Dallas: 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 a.m.–12:50 p.m.). There are evening groups that meet on Monday (7:00–8:30 p.m.) or Tuesday evenings (5:15–6:30 p.m. or 7:00–8:30 p.m.). Couples groups meet on Sunday afternoons or Tuesday evenings.
Houston: SF groups typically meet on campus prior to class from 4:30–5:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
Washington, DC: SF groups meet every other week around the region.
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. Couples groups are not offered at every campus every year.
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.
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.
While DTS faculty, staff, and area ministers may apply to lead an SF group, the vast majority of SF 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. Peer leaders receive additional training and instruction in pastoral care, group facilitation, and conflict resolution. In addition, all peer leaders attend their SF groups as participants. They approach the group with humility and 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 SF staff. Thus, peer leaders enjoy a safe and supervised laboratory for developing their education and training in leadership and small group facilitation.
The SF Staff anticipates and prepares leaders for potential conflicts because fallen human interaction includes conflict. Likewise, the student should expect and anticipate conflicts to surface at some point in future ministry. The SF 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.