Doctor of Ministry Pastor as Spiritual Leader Emphasis Overview

This Doctor of Ministry emphasis, offered in conjunction with the Program in Christian Spirituality, is designed to assist those persons, both ordained and lay, who share pastoral responsibility for congregations, chaplaincies and religious non-profits, in expanding their understanding and competence to serve as spiritual leaders of their settings. This emphasis will integrate prayer, contemplative listening, discernment, and biblical and theological reflection to nourish transformative pastoral leadership and spiritual formation of themselves and their communities.

The following assumptions ground this emphasis:

  • Christian spiritual formation is the work of the Holy Spirit, transforming our leadership and our institutions into the image of Christ in the world.
  • The transformed person of the spiritual leader is a significant component in the transformation of the community. The community itself is likewise a transforming agent for its members and its leader.
  • Congregations and other entities look to their pastors/directors to embody and facilitate leadership that is prayerful and discerning, critically reflective, emotionally intelligent, and biblical and theologically grounded.
  • The church is a primary (but not the only) arena in which Christians are invited, equipped, and encouraged to participate in the Holy  Spirit’s work of spiritual formation through worship, proclamation, sacraments, prayer, study, mission, peacemaking and justice.
  • Prayer, contemplative awareness and discernment are foundational to a pastoral leader’s ability to serve his/her people with energy, imagination, intelligence, love and freedom. Prayer is an expression of one’s relationship with God, as well as a primary means by which we grow in this relationship. Contemplative awareness involves the full, healthy embodiment of one’s whole self in relationship to God, self, others and creation. With discernment, one becomes increasingly able to notice where God is at work in the church, the world, and one’s own life--and able to respond in faithful discipleship.

Pedagogical commitments grounding this emphasis:

  • Learning is based on the participants’ experience reflected on personally and in community.
  • The cohort of fellow students is key to the supportive and transformational learning process. This cohort will begin with the first class and continue for at least two years, and possibly into the time in which participants are working on their dissertation/projects.

Core Faculty for the Doctor of Ministry
Pastor as Spiritual Leader 

Maria Bowen, PhD, is the Co-Founder and Director of Together in the Mystery Supervisor Training for Spiritual Directors.  She practices spiritual direction and supervision in San Anselmo, CA, and serves as Adjunct Faculty in the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction at SFTS.  She has trained supervisors throughout the United States and is part of the teaching team for the first year DASD/D.Min.-PSL course "The Art of Christian Listening” in addition to teaching DASD supervision courses.  She has contributed to Supervision of Spiritual Directors:  Engaging in Holy Mystery; Sacred is the Call:  Formation and Transformation in Spiritual Direction Programs; and Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry.

Elizabeth Liebert, Ph.D., is Professor of Spiritual Life at SFTS. Her most recent books as author or co-author are The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision-Making, A Retreat with the Psalms: Resources for Personal and Communal Prayer, and The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women. Beth teaches courses in discernment for both the DASD and the D.Min.-PSL, including the second year D.Min. course "Discernment: Systems and Nature,” which is also the subject of her forthcoming book.

Susan Phillips, Ph.D., is a spiritual director and supervisor in Berkeley, Calif., where she also serves as Executive Director of New College Berkeley, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union. She teaches about caring practices and spirituality at several seminaries in the U.S. and Canada, and is the author of Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction and The Cultivated Life. She is active in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Susan is part of the teaching team for the first year DASD/D.Min.-PSL course "The Art of Christian Listening."

Charlene Jin Lee, Ph.D., Charlene Jin Lee, Ph.D. is a practical theologian who studies the theo-ethical dimensions of spiritual formation and religious education. She is the author Reconceptualizing Christian Education through Autobiography and has written on transformational pedagogy in recent articles that include The Art of Supervision and Formation and Religious Education as Disruptive Praxis. She is Lecturer in Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University and was Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Director of Student Formation at SFTS Southern California. Charlene will lead the course Pastor as Person.

Associate Faculty
The following people will serve as faculty for the second year D.Min.-PSL course "The Role of the Pastor as Spiritual Leader ":

John Bell is a world-renowned liturgical composer and member of the Iona Community. He is a preacher, teacher, musician and hymn writer on the cutting edge of music education. Bell has co-produced over 15 collections of songs and octavos and a wide range of liturgical materials. His primary concern is the renewal of congregational worship at the grass roots level.

Jana L. Childers, M.Div., Ph.D., is Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of Homiletics and Speech-Communication at SFTS. She is a Presbyterian minister, having served congregations in Kansas and New Jersey. She is the author and editor of a number of books and articles, including Performing the Word: Preaching as Theatre, Birthing the Sermon: Women Preachers on Creative Process, Purposes of Preaching, and Preaching and Performance: Bringing the Sermon to Life.

Laurie Garrett-Cobbina, M.Div., M.Theol., A.C.P.E. Supervisor, occupies the Shaw Family Chair for Clinical Pastoral Education at SFTS. She is also a certified practitioner of guided imagery, reiki, in-surgery spiritual care, as well as a small group facilitator, workshop leader, and lecturer. Laurie has been a contributing author for many books, including Theologies from REM Women of Color, Promise of the Soul, and Having My Say: Reflections on Justice Ministries 1969-1999.

R. Scott Sullender, M.Div., M.Theol., Ph.D., is Director of the Lloyd Counseling Program and Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling at SFTS. He holds the rank of Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and has twice received its Pacific Region's Distinguished Service Award. Over the years he has written several books, articles, and education curricula, including his Losses in Later Life, which established him as an authority on aging and spirituality.

Phyllis Tickle, M.A., D.H.L., is the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, and is an authority on religion in America. In addition to lectures and numerous essays, articles, and interviews, Tickle is the author of over three dozen books in religion and spirituality.

Doctor of Ministry: Pastor as Spiritual Leader Courses

Courses:  This DMin emphasis follows the ordinary DMin pattern of 6 courses, Dissertation/Project Seminar and the completion of a Dissertation/Project. Four of these courses have been designed to serve the Pastor as Spiritual Leader emphasis.

  • Pastor as Person:  This foundational course supports and challenges participants to do the self-work crucial to serving as a spiritual leader.  The Summer 2015 iteration has been specially designed for the PSL emphasis.
  • The Art of Christian Listening:  This course introduces participants to contemplative listening and to the dynamics of personal spiritual direction. PSL participants will ponder how to adapt these dynamics to their settings.
  • Prayer and Discernment for Pastoral Ministry:  This course overviews forms of prayer and dynamics of discernment as set within the context of congregations, chaplaincies and other ministry settings.
  • Discernment of Systems and Structures:  This second discernment course extends discernment to systems of all kinds, including congregations, chaplaincies, communities, schools, civic groups, etc.
  • Two DMin electives, selected to enhance the individual student’s ministry context and objectives for the degree. 

In addition, all DMin students are required to complete the Dissertation/Project seminar. This course may be taken any summer session, but also, for those within commute distance of the campus, each spring in a semester-long format. Participants receive orientation to the signature assignments in their DMin studies and preview resources for the development of their dissertation project topic and design proposals. They may take this seminar until they have prepared their dissertation/project proposal.

PSL courses and the times offered for next cohort (summer 2015-summer 2017 plus dissertation/project) (proposed)

Pastor as Person

Art of Christian Listening

Prayer and Discernment in Ministry (including Theology of Min)

Discernment of Systems and Structures

DMin Elective

DMin Elective

Dissertation/ Project Seminar

Summer 2015 Special emphasis for PSL; also includes other DMin students

June 22-July3

January 2016  Shared with DASD first year students; PSL has own group

Summer 2016  Designed especially for PSL, but open to other DMin students as an elective

January 2017
Shared with DASD second and third year students; PSL has own group

Selected to fit each student’s developing focus for d/p.
Any summer.

Recommended Summer 2015:  John Bell (title)

Selected to fit each student’s developing focus for d/p.
Summer from DMin roster

Any summer for intensive; any spring for extended. May be taken repeatedly until d/p topic and design are fully developed

Qualifications for Admission:  Applicants for the DMin are expected to meet all of the following standards:

  • MDiv degree or its equivalent (i.e. other master’s degree in a religious subject, or ordination with extensive ministry experience)
  • Engagement in a recognized, typically-ordained ministry experience
  • Three years of ministry experience after completion of MDiv
  • English as Second Language applicants must have a TOEFL score of at least 550 (paper version/80 (internet version)

Costs:  For current tuition information, please contact Gail Priestley, the Program Manager for the Program in Advanced Pastoral Studies, by e-mail at or by phone at 415.451.2865 or 800-447-8820, ex 865.

Application Materials:

Application Deadline:  March 1, 2015

For further information, contact Gail Priestley, Program Manager, Advanced Pastoral Studies (, 800-447-8820, ex 865



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