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Certificate in Spiritual Formation

Talbot School of Theology


The Certificate in Spiritual Formation, offered through Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation (ISF), is an introductory yet intensive program designed to assist your personal growth, to provide initial training for ministry in the local church, and to give you an opportunity to understand your giftedness to determine whether the Lord is calling you to more training and preparation for ministry.

As an introductory program, this 18-credit certificate has coursework designed to orient you to the practices of soul care and spiritual direction, including opportunities for you to experience personal spiritual direction and participate in various retreats. But unlike ISF’s master’s programs, the certificate does not include (1) actual practice in doing soul care and spiritual mentoring with others in a church or university context or (2) professional supervision from a faculty spiritual mentor regarding your practice of mentoring others.

Should you discern a call to further studies, certificate coursework may later be applied toward a Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree through ISF.

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Why Pursue a Certificate at Talbot?

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. 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.

Be Equipped to Serve Others. Develop your understanding of how the Holy Spirit works in a believer’s life with coursework in theology, biblical studies and spiritual formation. You will be better prepared to serve others in your current ministry or church as you learn, and personally experience, spiritual direction and the ministry of soul care.

Learn from ISF’s Reputable Faculty. All the courses in your program are part of Talbot’s degree programs, meaning you will receive the same high-quality education and training from ISF’s expert faculty and professional spiritual directors, each of whom are committed to God’s Word and to equipping men and women to serve the body of Christ.

Take a “Test Drive” of a Talbot Master’s Program. Not sure whether to pursue a full degree? This certificate program gives you a taste of what Talbot’s academic degree programs can offer. Should you choose to continue, your required courses can be applied to a Master of Arts or Master of Divinity degree.


Below are the course requirements for this academic program. For full program details, visit Biola's academic catalog.


The Certificate in Spiritual Formation is an introductory yet intensive, integrative program within the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology, designed to assist individuals in their personal growth, provide some training in lay ministry of spiritual formation in the local church and give the student opportunity to understand their giftedness in order to determine whether the Lord is calling them to more training and preparation for ministry.

The program is designed entirely around promoting growth in the believer's inner life of faith and prayer with God in the context of a shared community and developed knowledge-base in the Word, spiritual formation and soul care. It focuses specifically on ways to deepen one's knowledge and openness to God and His work as well as understanding of one's self and others in order to grow toward conformity of character and inner life in the image of Christ. 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 the Institute's diverse university-wide faculty that 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.

Certificate course work may later be applied toward a Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree.


The mission of the Certificate in Spiritual Formation is to introduce believers to the processes involved in knowing themselves honestly and openly before God and one another in Truth, in cultivating intimacy with, growth in and obedience to Christ, in the training in lay ministry of spiritual formation in the local church which, in turn, gives opportunity for students to explore their calling and potential need for more training in ministry.

Program Learning Outcome

Upon completion of the 18-credit Spiritual Formation Certificate, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the basic elements of Spiritual Theology, namely, the nature, process, and practices of spiritual growth (ULO 1).

Each Program Learning Outcome (PLO) listed above references at least one of the University Learning Outcomes (ULO 1, 2, 3), which may be found in the General Information section of this catalog.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college with a minimum grade point average of 2.6 (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants who do not possess a Bachelor of Arts degree or its academic equivalent from an accredited institution may still apply and may be provisionally admitted at the discretion of Talbot School of Theology.

For special admissions deadlines and requirements involved in the Certificate in Spiritual Formation, contact Graduate Admissions. Due to the unique nature of this program, all applicants will be personally interviewed.

Completion Requirements

  1. Satisfactorily complete all courses for a total of 18 semester credits as outlined in the curriculum below, including co-curricular requirements. Applicants who do not possess a Bachelor of Arts degree or its academic equivalent from an accredited institution may still apply and may be provisionally admitted at the discretion of Talbot School of Theology.
  2. Obtain a 2.5 GPA with no grade below a D- in all courses to be credited toward completion.
  3. At least 9 credits must be taken at this seminary.
  4. Complete the entire program in no more than five years.

Students are placed on academic probation if their GPA for any semester falls below 2.5 and will remain on probation as long as the single semester or cumulative GPA remains below 2.5.

Probation students are granted one semester in which to bring their academic work up to the required level (2.5) for continuance in the seminary. A student cannot complete the certificate while on probation.

Curriculum Requirements

Required Courses
TTSF 521Introduction to Christian Spirituality and Prayer3
TTSF 524History and Theory of Christian Soul Care and Direction3
TTSF 532Developmental Spirituality and Contemplative Prayer2
TTSF 543Personal Foundations of Spirituality and Retreat3
TTSF 672Personal Retreat and Formation2
TTSF 701Spiritual Formation Seminar2
Select one course from the following:3
Hermeneutics and the Word in Spiritual Formation
Theology I: God, Scripture, Creation
Theology II: Christ, Humanity, Sin, Salvation
Co-Curricular Requirements
Contact the Institute for Spiritual Formation (ISF) for a full description of these requirements. 1
Didactic Therapy (Recommended)
Faculty-Student Retreat
Personal Spiritual Direction (must be taken every term of enrollment)
Total Credits18

Institute for Spiritual Formation (ISF)

1-2 years
Standard Duration
This indicates the standard duration of this program. Completion time may vary depending on transferred coursework and preferred courseload.
Total Program Credits
Every program at Biola University features rigorous academics, biblically integrated curriculum and vocational preparation.
Biola University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Additional accreditations may apply to specific programs.

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

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

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