Institute for Spiritual Formation

Co-Curricular Requirements

As part of the experiential and practical nature of the academic programs, students are required to fulfill some co-curricular requirements.  These may include spiritual direction, didactic therapy, a faculty-student retreat, personal retreats, a preliminary oral interview, an intensive journey inward retreat, and a thesis.  See the details of each requirement to see how it may or may not apply to various degrees. 


Personal Spiritual Direction

As those being trained to lead the church in spiritual formation and soul care, it is vital for all ISF students to experience spiritual direction themselves.  The student is expected to be open and honest with their spiritual director, hiding nothing regarding one's relationship with God and, within reason, attending to the direction of the spiritual director.  To learn more about spiritual direction, visit the Center for Spiritual Renewal page .


  • Required of all ISF M.A., M.Div. Spiritual Formation Emphasis, and Certificate students for approximately 10 sessions per calendar year (i.e. about once a month).

  • Students must enroll in Spiritual Direction (0 units) each semester they take classes.

  • Students must meet with an approved spiritual director, and can only change directors with faculty approval.

  • The fee structure between spiritual director and directee is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University.


Didactic Therapy

This requirement is intended to introduce the student to the work and world of Christian psychotherapy as well as enhance the student's understanding and experience of the psychological dynamics and defenses at work in himself and in those with whom he shall work.  Each Masters level ISF student is required to experience a minimal number of hours in personal didactic psychotherapy concurrent with enrollment with a clinical therapist approved by the faculty.  Required of all M.A./M.Div. Spiritual Formation Emphasis students (encouraged for Certificate students).


  • M.A. Soul Care/M.Div. Spiritual Formation Emphasis: minimum 25 hours completed before enrolling in Practicum II

  • M.A. Emphasis: minimum 12 hours completed before the end of the final semester for grades to be submitted

  • The fee structure between therapist and client is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University.

  • Further therapy may be recommended in SF 543 Personal Foundations of Spirituality.


Faculty-Student Retreat

Each Spring all students who were enrolled in SF 543 (Personal Foundations of Spirituality) the previous Fall semester are required to attend a 24-hour overnight retreat with the ISF Faculty and Staff.  The purpose of this time is to build on the foundations of 543 by looking deeper into one’s personal history with the guidance and support of the faculty, staff, and one’s classmates.


  • Students will pay a fee of approximately $60 (subject to change each year) to pay part of the cost of this retreat, and will be required to provide their own transportation.

  • Students who are absolutely unable to attend this retreat during the Spring semester immediately following the Fall that they take SF 543 may request permission from the ISF faculty to defer until the following year.

  • The retreat generally goes from a Sunday noon to Monday noon. Those with ministry responsibilities will be expected to make advance arrangements in order to ensure their capacity to arrive on time (latecomers will have to wait until the following year to participate, as every element of the schedule is essential and cannot be missed or completed in advance).


Personal Retreat

All students in the ISF program are required to go on one 48 hour retreat each semester for the purpose of cultivating the inner life before God (a total of at least four 48 hour retreats). This is to be done in consultation with one's designated spiritual director and a faculty member before and after the experience.


  • The retreat requirement must be completed by finals week of the student's last semester enrolled to receive final grades (including written work).

  • Student costs for such retreats are the responsibility of each student.

  • M.A. Soul Care & M.Div. Spiritual Formation Emphasis students will provide written description of retreats to the faculty.

  • M.A. Emphasis and Certificate students will enroll in four units of SF 672 Personal Retreat in their last semester, with the entire work load consisting of approximately 180 hours which includes the four weekend retreats (counts for 120 hours) and 60 additional hours which may include design and 5 page write-ups of each retreat, class-time, coursework, and additional personal retreats.


Preliminary Oral Interview (POI)

M.A in Soul Care students (only) will have an oral interview with a faculty committee to (1) assess their progress and potential to successfully complete the program and (2) assess the appropriate manner suited to the student's needs and capacity in which to complete the Intensive Journey Inward Retreat requirement.


  • This interview is typically scheduled near the end of the second semester and/or with the completion of at least 9 units.

  • The results are reported to the Institute faculty which determines the appropriateness of allowing the student (1) to continue the program, (2) to continue the program with certain conditions and/or a POI the following year or (3) to not allow the student to continue in the program (or in some cases, permission to continue by switching to the non-training M.A. Emphasis program.)


Intensive Journey Inward Retreat

Required only of students in the M.Div. and M.A. in Spiritual Formation & Soul Care programs. Due to the nature of soul work involved in spiritual direction and in harmony with its tradition, each student is required to have a total of three weeks of extended retreat in isolation or partial isolation (which will be defined in each student's POI process) 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. Special instructions will be given in order to facilitate making the proper arrangements. This experience will attempt to integrate insight from various psychological as well as contemplative traditions for the intended purpose of drawing near to God in the Holy Spirit.


  • The student should enroll in four units of SF 670 Intensive Journey Inward concurrently or upon completion of retreat (Spring of second year or final semester of enrollment).

  • The Intensive Retreat is to be completed before graduation.

  • The costs for such a retreat are arranged between the student and other parties and are not the responsibility of the Institute or University (if retreat scholarship funds are available, they will be announced to the student body).


Spiritual Formation Master's Project-Thesis

Required of students with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation only. Students are required to complete a Master's Project-Thesis in the area of spiritual formation, spiritual direction or mentoring (concurrent with enrollment in SF 740 which includes 3 units for writing and one unit for personal growth exploration). The project must involve both a theoretical and practical/experiential dimension in consultation with thesis advisor.


Biola University
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