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Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care


The Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, an intensive specialized professional degree offered through Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation (ISF), is a leading program for men and women who desire training and equipping to become spiritual directors, pastors, teachers, mentors and leaders of soul-care ministries within the church.

The program is shaped around promoting growth in your inner life of faith and prayer with God in the context of a shared community, while also developing your knowledge-base in the Word, spiritual formation and soul care. It focuses specifically on ways to deepen your knowledge and openness to God and his work, as well as understanding of yourself and others in order to grow toward conformity of character and inner life in the image of Christ. In turn, it trains you to assist others in their journey of growth in Christ and his body.

In order to accomplish this, the program has a substantial emphasis on understanding the dynamics of the indwelling Holy Spirit as they interface human personality and relational dynamics. These integrative endeavors are enhanced by ISF’s diverse university-wide faculty, which draws particularly upon Rosemead School of Psychology and Talbot School of Theology, bringing a wide range of expertise and experience to bear upon the process of human spiritual growth and soul care.

  • Study and Experience Spiritual Formation from a Trusted Program. Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation is a trusted leader among Christian seminaries in the area of spiritual formation and soul care. Throughout your program, you’ll learn through experience and theory that growth in Christ is based upon an encounter with God and oneself in the Truth.
  • Learn from Leading Faculty and Practitioners in Theology and Spiritual Formation. ISF faculty are leading scholars in the field of spiritual formation, dedicated to training pastors and leaders in understanding how spiritual transformation works in their lives and in the life of the church. ISF publishes The Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, a leading peer-reviewed publication that serves as a forum for academic conversations on the theory and practice of Christian formation and soul care.
  • Understand the Word of God and its Role in Christian Spirituality. At ISF, you will come to have a sufficient grasp and commitment to the Word of God as the primary source of truth for your understanding of spiritual formation and spiritual direction. Meanwhile, you’ll also learn to integrate truth from extrabiblical sources of wisdom — including church history, spiritual classics, personal experience, the humanities and the social sciences. You’ll also be trained to discern truth and error in light of various competing contemporary spiritualities.
  • Foster Honest Self-Assessment and Humility. Gain an honest understanding of yourself in the presence of God and truth through various experiential projects. Your ISF experience will include group retreats in the picturesque mountains of Southern California, spiritual direction with a trained therapist, assignments that encourage you to unplug from all distractions, and uninterrupted times of prayer and spiritual disciplines. One of the most life-changing aspects of this program is the Intensive Journey Inward Retreat, a three-week extended retreat in solitude or partial isolation with supervision from a spiritual guide.
  • Develop a Deeper Understanding of Sin. Through this program, you will become more aware of the sinful dynamics that govern your own life and those you will be ministering to, as well as a deeper appreciation of the origin of those dynamics from interaction with the Scriptures, psychological theory, philosophy, prayer projects and personal experience in therapy, retreats and spiritual direction.
  • Cultivate Deeper Intimacy with and Obedience to Christ. Through your meditation on the Word, experiential prayer projects, retreats and personal experience in spiritual direction, this program aims to nurture your relationship to Christ, cultivate growth in character and develop behavior consistent with the faith.
  • Provide Spiritual Direction for Others. Your training will include courses on the heart of spiritual direction, supervision in practical settings and personal experience in your own spiritual direction. Students benefit from ISF's presence on campus as a center where spiritual direction is available to Biola students, the community and beyond. Through this process, you’ll be evaluated in a variety of ways to determine your ability, giftedness and preparedness to provide spiritual direction for others. You’ll also learn minimal assessment skills adequate to refer spiritual directees to appropriate medical or psychological care. 
  • Appreciate the Unique Cultural Dynamics Involved in Spiritual Growth. You will come to have some appreciation of the unique dynamics involved in teaching, mentoring and doing spiritual direction with believers of varying cultural backgrounds by means of coursework and some practical experience.

For more reasons to choose Talbot School of Theology for your education, see the Why Talbot? page.

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What will I study as a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care student?

The M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care includes both in-depth theoretical and integrative coursework, employing such disciplines as theology, philosophy, psychology and education as well as experiential-relational soul work in classes and co-curricular requirements to aid in understanding the spiritual life mentoring. Because the program is experiential and theoretical in nature with respect to spiritual growth and the dynamic processes involved, it draws upon an interdisciplinary faculty from both Talbot and Rosemead School of Psychology.

In addition to coursework, you’ll also participate in several co-curricular activities required of all ISF students.

Some of your courses include:

Christian Virtue and the Spiritual Disciplines (TTSF 645)

An introduction to ethics including the nature of personal character, virtues and vices, and their relationship to the spiritual disciplines as means of spiritual growth into the image of Christ. Notes: Required of all SF M.A. and M.Div. students. Grade Mode: A.

Personality Development and Psychopathology (TTSF 544)

An overview of personality development and the major forms of psychopathology from a depth psychological perspective (psychodynamic and existential). This course provides a framework for understanding the dynamics inherent in personality development and distortions of that development under the influence of sin. Notes: Required of all SF M.A. and M.Div. students. Grade Mode: A.

Intensive Journey Inward and Retreat (TTSF 670)

M.Div. and M.A. Soul Care students are required to have a total of three weeks of extended off-campus retreat in isolation or partial isolation to explore and cultivate the inner life in the presence of God under the supervision of a spiritual guide (as designated or permitted by the faculty) and one's advisor. The first half of this classroom course, taken early in the program (2 credits for M.A. Soul Care students, 1 credit for M.Div.), will cover theory and preparation for the retreat. The second half of the course (2 credits for M.A. Soul Care students, 1 credit for M.Div.), taken late in the program, and after completing the retreat, will serve to debrief and further understand the retreat process. Grade Mode: A.

Admissions & Deadlines

As a Christian institution, Biola seeks to admit applicants whose backgrounds clearly demonstrate scholarly aptitude, a commitment to the historic Christian faith, personal character and integrity, and a positive service-oriented motivation toward their field of study. Biola does not discriminate on the basis of the applicant's race, color, sex, socio-economic status, disability, or national or ethnic origin.

Note: Participation in the graduate programs in spiritual formation presumes a certain degree of ministry or life experience and personal maturity. This is particularly true of the M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, which is not only an academic degree, but involves applied ministry where life experience and relational skills involved in spiritual direction are crucial. It is also our aim to keep the faculty-student ratio lower than in typical seminary programs. Thus, application consideration will be based on weighing the following factors:

  • Ministry and life experience
  • Personal preparedness for a growth journey
  • Perception of calling and giftedness for ministry in spiritual formation and soul care


Education and GPA Requirements

  • You must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution by the time you plan to start coursework at Biola, with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
  • Note: If you do not meet the degree or GPA requirements above, you may still be considered for admission. Please contact the Office of Graduate Admissions office at If you are an international student, contact

English Proficiency Requirements

  • If English is not your first language, you are required to display your English proficiency before admittance into a Biola University graduate program. See “English Proficiency” in the application steps section below.

Application Deadlines

  • Fall Semester
    • General: April 1
    • International Students: April 1
  • Spring Semester
    • General: October 15
    • International Students: October 1

Visit Biola

Explore our sunny Southern California campus in person or virtually. Learn more about your program of interest and the admissions process by scheduling an appointment with an admissions counselor.

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Meet Your Admissions Counselor

If you have more questions about the program, admissions process or Biola in general, schedule a phone call or send an email to your admissions counselor.

Graduate Admissions Counselor

Photo of Arianna Kokol
Arianna Kokol

Text or Call: (562) 564-6688
Book a Phone or Virtual Appointment

International Graduate Admissions Counselor

The Office of International Admissions serves students who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

Book a Phone or Virtual Appointment

Application Steps

  1. Complete and submit the online application

  2. Submit a non-refundable $65 application fee

  3. Submit supplemental application materials through your online application portal:

  4. Official Transcripts

    • Submit all official transcripts from previous academic institutions.
      • Request official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.
      • If enrolled at the time the application is filed, be sure to request transcripts of work finished to date and final transcripts upon completion of your course of study.
      • Transcripts will be considered official only when a) mailed directly from the institution to Biola, b) sent electronically through an approved vendor or c) physically delivered in an untampered envelope sealed by the institution. Final approval for admission is contingent on receiving an official transcript.
        • Mail transcripts to:
          Biola University Office of Graduate Admissions
          13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, CA 90639
    • Note for International Students: All international transcripts need U.S. grade equivalencies noted (i.e. GPA on a 4.0 scale). If your transcripts do not show U.S. grade equivalencies, you must have them evaluated by a credential evaluation agency like SpanTran (Biola Discount), World Education Services (WES) or Foundation for International Services (FIS). Be sure to choose "course by course report" and have SpanTran/WES/FIS send them directly to Biola University via online portal or post (13800 Biola Ave, La Mirada, CA 90639) in order to be considered official.

    Three Reference Letters

    • Pastoral reference
    • Character reference (someone in a leadership role in your life)
    • Reference form relating to your personal spiritual formation from the same pastor or character reference above
    • Note: Additional instructions can be found in the online application.

    Four Essays

    • Christian testimony
    • Essay demonstrating understanding of spiritual formation and goal of graduate study
    • Personal essay addressing how studying spiritual formation will impact your life
    • Biography of your personal spiritual development
    • Note: The essay prompts can be found in the online application.

    English Proficiency (required for non-native English speakers)

    • Evidence of English proficiency is required for all students to support student success. Proficiency must be shown through one of the methods described below:
      • Minimum test score on a qualifying standardized test
        • TOEFL: minimum score of 100 iBT
        • IELTS: minimum score of 7.5
        • Duolingo: minimum score of 125
      • A degree (bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral) issued by an institution where English is the medium of instruction.
        • Official written communication from the institution (Registrar, Controller of Examinations Office, or Undergraduate College)
        • Official degree statements or transcripts may be accepted given English is stated as the medium of instruction
        • Official catalog verification
        • Note: For universities from non-Anglophone countries, further language assessment may be required.
      • Completion of the English Language Scholars (ELS) with passing status on the ELS's final exit exam, which must be approved by the ELS Director in collaboration with the academic program committee. An updated TOEFL or IELTS score may be used at the end of a term to test directly into the graduate program for the following term.
      • Qualify for English Language Scholars (ELS), which allows students who do not meet the minimum TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo scores to still enroll in their graduate degree program. Students would be taking academic English courses concurrently with the graduate degree program courses. 
        • Students eligible for ELS will be assessed by the ELS Director to determine the total number of academic English courses to take while enrolled in their graduate program courses. The following are the scores needed to qualify for ELS: TOEFL iBT 90 / IELTS 7.0 / Duolingo 110–124.
        • Note: Students must be admitted to the graduate program first to be considered for ELS.
  5. Successful candidates are required to participate in a personal interview following the submission of their initial application


    Additional Forms


    Things to Note

    • Track your application status at any time. You do not have to complete the application in one sitting. You can complete a portion and finish at a later time. Your information will be saved. When you apply, to guarantee confidentiality, you will be asked to create a user name and a password, and will receive a personalized identification number. Track your application status by logging in to the online application.
    • Official documents presented for admission or evaluation become part of the student’s academic file and normally cannot be returned or copied for distribution.
    • International students who will be studying on campus are required to apply for an F-1 student visa. For more information, visit

Tuition and Financial Aid

Biola is committed to help make your studies affordable — each school offers different scholarship, grant and loan opportunities to help finance your education.

Cost Per Credit (2024‑25) $704
Full-time Tuition Per Term (Estimated) Based on 9 credit courseload$6,336
Part-time Tuition Per Term (Estimated) Based on 3 credit courseload$2,112
Total Program Tuition (Estimated) Based on total program credits and 2024‑25 cost per credit$39,424


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On Campus: You'll study in person at Biola University's campus in Southern California.

Total Credits

Every program at Biola University features rigorous academics, biblically integrated curriculum and vocational preparation.

Cost per Credit

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Standard Completion Time

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Biola University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Additional accreditations may apply to specific programs.