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Christian Formation and Ministry

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M.A. in Christian Formation and Ministry


Requirements for the M.A. Degree

                Core Courses

                Ministry Concentrations

                                Church and Parachurch

                                Bible, Theology, and Ministry

                                Children and Families

                                Student Development

                                Outdoor Adventure Leadership

Course Descriptions


Chair Associate Professor Barrett McRay

Graduate Program Coordinator David Setran

Scripture Press Professor of Christian Formation & Ministry James Wilhoit

Associate Professors Scottie May, Tom Schwanda

Visiting Assistant Professor David Sveen

Director of HoneyRock and Assistant Professor Rob Ribbe

Director of Institute for Prison Ministries and Instructor Karen Swanson

Internship Coordinator and Instructor Daniel Haase


The Christian Formation and Ministry Department offers the M.A. degree in Christian Formation and Ministry.  The purpose of the degree is to develop academically grounded, spiritually maturing, and practically skilled leaders who minister the Gospel and build up God's people in a constantly changing world. We seek to nurture wisdom and compassion in students who are becoming…       

Academically grounded in that they…


*       Articulate a biblical, theological, historical, and philosophical  perspective of formation and ministry.

*       Identify a theoretical framework for ministry context analysis.

*       Demonstrate an understanding of the educational, spiritual, and ministry practices by which people mature in Christ.


Spiritually maturing in that they…


*       Demonstrate a life of discipleship and spiritual growth as the foundation of effective ministry.

*       Identify one's gifts and calling, responding to areas of strength and challenge in preparation for serving the needs of the church and the world.

*       Respect every person, valuing the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and traditions within the church.


Practically skilled in that they…


*       Minister and teach effectively, integrating theory and scripture into creative practice with integrity, humility, and grace.

*       Serve collaboratively and compassionately, balancing the needs of others with adequate self-care.

*       Demonstrate the necessary skills of a ministry practitioner/scholar: critical analysis; oral communication; written communication; program evaluation.

M.A. in Christian Formation and Ministry

The Master’s program in Christian Formation and Ministry prepares students to foster the development, growth, nurture, and wholeness of Christians in a wide array of ministry settings. Our department is convinced that the individual well prepared for ministry will possess a strong liberal arts foundation in ministry-relevant disciplines, a growing capacity to effectively link theory and practice in concrete ministry settings, and a purposeful participation in an ongoing process of personal spiritual formation. Through these various avenues, students work to develop an integrated philosophy of formation and ministry that is biblically and theologically grounded, academically informed, and relevant to the needs of a changing world.

The program is designed for the "reflective practitioner" because it promotes a continual dialogue between foundational principles and pressing ministry concerns. As such, it is useful for anyone interested in facilitating spiritual formation in others, particularly those working in church and parachurch contexts, student development settings, camps, and the mission field. Because of the value placed upon collaboration and the richness and diversity of faculty and students, there is a significant emphasis on the development of a vibrant learning community. In addition, students participate in spiritual formation courses that facilitate personal and corporate spiritual and character development and the discernment of ministry calling in the context of this community.

While all of the courses are designed to reflect broad ministry concerns, students are encouraged to pursue their particular ministry interests throughout the program. Beyond the core requirements, students are required to select an area of ministry concentration. Students may choose a ministry concentration in Student Development; Church and Parachurch; Bible, Theology, and Ministry; Children and Families; or Outdoor Adventure Leadership. Regardless of the chosen focus area, students will benefit from the combination of core ministry themes and more specialized courses in areas of personal interest.


Admission to the Christian Formation and Ministry graduate program is open both to those who are currently involved in ministry and to those who are preparing for future ministry. Admission does not require a specific undergraduate major or a prescribed set of courses, but students are expected to possess a basic knowledge of the Bible and proficiency in written and spoken English. Since this program is aimed at preparing students for Christian ministry, continued enrollment in the degree program requires successful candidacy approval, which occurs after admission and before 12 hours of coursework have been completed. During the candidacy approval process, CFM professors will evaluate the presence of essential ministry skills and dispositions, as well as the student's demonstration of a commitment to growth in Christian virtues. At the time of acceptance into the program, the department will notify the student if there are course deficiencies which need to be met.

Requirements for the M.A. Degree

Requirements for the Christian Formation and Ministry program leading to a Master of Arts degree consist of the successful completion of 42 semester hours, a comprehensive examination, and a capstone project or internship. Students are required to complete 24 hours of core courses plus an additional 18 hours in a specified area of concentration.

Core Courses:

CFM 512 Bible in Ministry (2)

CFM 513 History and Philosophy of Ministry (4)

CFM 514 Ministry in Culture (2)

CFM 515 Human Development and Research for Ministry (4)

CFM 516 Teaching for Transformation (4)

CFM 521 Personal Spiritual Formation (2)

CFM 522 History and Traditions of Spiritual Formation (2)

Category I Bible TSR requirement (4)


All graduate students are required to complete a theological studies requirement of 6 semester hours.  For CFM students, this consists of CFM 512 plus a 4-hour course from the Category I listing in the Graduate School section of this catalog.  Students are also required to complete a zero-credit comprehensive exam (CFM 681) and a zero-credit Mentoring Group in their area of concentration (CFM 691). 

The final project within each concentration may be either a thesis/applied thesis (CFM 698), creative project (CFM 692), or internship (CFM 696).  Up to four hours of electives within a concentration may be taken through independent study courses.  Courses taken on a pass/fail basis may not be applied to the degree requirements. For courses offered only on a pass/fail basis, two hours of pass/fail credit may be applied to the degree with approval of the department chair.

Ministry Concentrations:

Church and Parachurch Concentration:

The Church and Parachurch concentration is designed for those who are involved or interested in church and parachurch ministries in any setting. The core courses of this program are relevant to all ministry contexts, providing a solid foundation in biblical and theological reflection, ministry philosophy, practical skills, and personal spiritual formation. Beyond the core courses, students can tailor much of the program to their unique needs and interests, selecting a combination of courses that will best equip them for fruitful ministry.

CFM 523 Ministry Leadership and Organization (4)

CFM 534 Care and Counsel in Ministry (2)

General Ministry Final Project (2)

Electives – 10 hours in ministry-related courses (up to 8 hours can be taken from other graduate departments or other concentrations)


Bible, Theology, and Ministry Concentration:

The Bible, Theology, and Ministry concentration is designed for those who desire a more advanced grounding in biblical and theological studies while also developing a strong ministry foundation. Students in this concentration will develop an integrated understanding of the biblical narrative, biblical interpretation, Christian theology, and church history while also developing a ministry philosophy, learning critical ministry skills, and deepening their engagement with personal spiritual formation.

Biblical Studies:

BITH 566 Foundations for Biblical Interpretation (counts as TSR requirement) (4)

Theological Studies: (choose 4 hours)

BITH 638 Old Testament Theology (4)

BITH 648 New Testament Theology (4)

BITH 565 Christian Theology (4)

BITH 567 Theology of the Church (2)

BITH 561 Theological Anthropology (2)

BITH 558 Theology of Luther, Barth, Augustine, Aquinas, etc. (2 or 4)

Christian History: (choose 4 hours)

BITH 576 History of Christianity to 1900 (4)

BITH 581 The Reformation (4)

BITH 687 The Puritans (4)

BITH 653 Historical Theology: Ancient (2)

BITH 654 Historical Theology: Medieval (2)

BITH 571 Introduction to the History of Christianity (2)

BITH Elective (4)

Open Elective (4)

Bible, Theology, and Ministry Final Project (2)

Children and Families Concentration:

The Children and Families concentration is designed for those interested in the Christian formation of children (birth to age 12) and families (of various sizes and structures). Grounded in principles from Scripture and drawing on theories of Christian formation, the role and value of children and families within the faith community is a main focus. This concentration helps prepare students to be an effective children’s minister or family minister in a local church, or engage in a wide variety of ministries related to children and family in other contexts.

CFM 551 Child Development and Spirituality (4)

CFM 531 Curriculum Development for Ministry (2)

CFM 611 Family Ministry (2)

CFM 621 Children’s Ministry (4)

CFM 532 Discipleship (2)

CFM 534 Care and Counsel in Ministry (2)

Children and Family Final Project (2)

Student Development Concentration:

The Student Development concentration is designed for those seeking to influence the lives of college students. This concentration will connect you to current research that will challenge you to think critically about collegiate learning, form collaborative partnerships across the institution, and develop a personal philosophy of student development within the higher education context.

CFM 641 College and Young Adult Ministry (4)

CFM 534 Care and Counsel in Ministry (2)

CFM 532 Discipleship (2)

CFM 545 Student Development Leadership and Organization (4)

CFM 546 Facilitating Collegiate Learning (4)

Student Development Final Project (2)

Outdoor Adventure Leadership Concentration:

The Outdoor Adventure Leadership concentration is designed for current camp, adventure, and outdoor ministry professionals, as well as those looking for excellent training to launch them into the field. In addition to core classes in the Christian Formation and Ministry Department, students also take a series of modular, one-week intensive classes related to outdoor ministry at HoneyRock, the Northwoods campus of Wheaton College.

CFM 563 The Church and Outdoor Ministry (4)

CFM 564 Adventure Challenge Education (4) or CFM 664 Wilderness Programming and Leadership (4)

CFM 662 Theology and Practice of Outdoor Adventure Leadership (4)

CFM 663 Leadership Development in Outdoor Adventure Leadership (4)

Outdoor Ministry Final Project (2)

Christian Formation and Ministry Courses (CFM)

CFM 512. Bible in Ministry. This course acquaints students with the formative nature and power of Scripture.  It explores the principles and practices of using Scripture in ministry through reading, study, devotion, and meditation in personal, small groups and teaching, and related ministries of the church. (2)

CFM 513. History and Philosophy of Ministry. Helps students become more informed and effective ministers through the analysis of ministry and educational philosophies that have guided the church throughout its history. Provides a framework within which to formulate a biblically and historically informed philosophy of ministry.

CFM 514. Ministry in Culture. Explores foundational cultural issues from a Christian, socio-cultural perspective. Provides opportunities for students to cultivate theory and practice of ministry in the multicultural American society, as well as the Church around the world. (2)

CFM 515. Human Development and Research for Ministry. An introduction to biblical, historical, and theological understandings of the nature of persons and the integration of relevant psychological and sociological understandings of human development. In addition, students will be encouraged to consider the application of these foundations to the contemporary work of Christian formation and ministry. Includes an introduction to the theory and practice of qualitative research methodologies as they relate to Christian formation and ministry.

CFM 516. Teaching for Transformation. Promotes Christian growth through educational planning and evaluation. Methods of teaching, curriculum design, and character of the teacher are considered.

CFM 521. Personal Spiritual Formation. An introduction to personal spiritual formation, including spiritual health and the practice of spiritual disciplines. Includes an off-site weekend retreat. Fee: $30 (2)

CFM 522. History and Traditions of Spiritual Formation. This course traces some of the dominant themes of Christian spirituality.  Through biblical, theological, and historical study, we will examine how various individuals and movements have experienced and sought to nurture their relationship with the Triune God.  Particular attention is paid to developing the skills of discernment for reading these primary sources.  (2)

CFM 523. Ministry Leadership and Organization. Introduction to issues of ministry leadership, including organizational theory, ethics, conflict management, and personal concerns for integrity and spiritual health.

CFM 531. Curriculum Development for Ministry. Focuses on advanced curriculum design and development for ministry purposes, and the roles of learning environments and experiences in facilitating spiritual growth for learners of any age. Includes practical components integral to these issues. Prerequisites: CFM 516. (2)

CFM 532. Discipleship. This course examines the biblical and historical models and principles for the life-long process of making disciples in a changing culture.  Built on the foundation of spiritual formation and mentoring, students will be challenged to grow as disciples so that they might also equip and encourage others to grow in following Jesus. (2)

CFM 533. Prayer. Provides a theory-based examination of prayer, especially within the historic evangelical faith. (2)

CFM 534. Care and Counsel in Ministry. An introduction to the basic concepts and skills involved in care and counsel within ministry contexts including an overview of the historic ministry of soul care, biblical foundations for care in ministry, major categories of human suffering, and rudimentary person-to-person helping skills. This course is designed to enable those in ministry to help individuals and families understand and deal with contemporary issues—e.g., divorce, grief, suicide, conflict, etc. (2)

CFM 536x. Worship and Spirituality. See CE 345. (4)

CFM 538. Spirituality. An examination of Christian spirituality with particular attention given to its implications for psychological and pastoral care. This course is part of the Psy.D. program requirements. (2)

CFM 541. Urban Ministry with Children and Families. Explores the unique demographic, contextual, economic, and ecological factors of the urban setting that impact urban churches and parachurch organizations as they minister to children and families.  Attention is given to the current issues and challenges of urban ministry in order to understand ways to equip and support parents in differing family contexts.  This course seeks to discern ways in which the Gospel is a long-term transforming source for urban families. Prerequisite: CFM 513, CFM 514.  Fee $30 (2)

CFM 542x. Ministry Research and Evaluation. (See CE 462). (2)

CFM 545. Student Development Leadership and Organization. An introduction and overview of the administration and organization of College Student Affairs with an emphasis on its historical and philosophical foundations, its basic documents and leadership strategies and issues. Staff selection, training, supervision, policy development, and program implementation and evaluation are addressed.

CFM 546. Facilitating Collegiate Learning. The college student experience must be built upon learning opportunities throughout the entire systems (i.e., academic and social) and within all facets of higher education. No department or entity is exempt from the opportunities to impact student learning and development. This course is designed to explore and equip students for these opportunities via understanding the student learning paradigm and its application to higher education practice.

CFM 551. Child Development and Spirituality. The cognitive, social, emotional, and physical characteristics of children, birth to age twelve, are considered in detail. Related theories and research are examined, as they inform the understanding of spiritual formation and experience of youngsters. Students examine one or more specific aspects of children’s spirituality through library research, exploratory observation, and interviewing of children, teachers, and/or parents in church, parachurch, and/or home contexts.

CFM 563. The Church and Outdoor Ministry. Studying the mission and nature of the Church and how the temporary system can be utilized to impact renewal and development in the Church. Overview of the historical and theological expressions of the church. Special emphasis is placed on the church/parachurch dynamic. Study of the biblical principles of renewal, hospitality, and service. Offered at HoneyRock.

CFM 564. Adventure Challenge Education. An introduction to the principles and practices of experiential education.  This course applies theories and principles of leadership, spiritual development and experiential education to adventure challenge programs utilizing ropes courses, team initiatives, climbing, and other outdoor adventure activities. Students will apply learning by developing, leading and evaluating short term (1/2-day to 3-day) adventure education experiences for a variety of groups.  Coursework is to be integrated with practical experience and will conclude with a creative project. Course offered in a modular format each May at HoneyRock.

CFM 611. Family Ministry. An examination of the nature of marital and family relationships in preparation for students in ministry to understand these dynamics in their own families, in the families of those to whom they minister, and the impact of these on their ability to be effective ministers. The course concludes with a consideration of church as the family of God. (2)

CFM 621. Children’s Ministry. Examines the nature and spirituality of children in light of biblical, theological, and developmental perspectives. Analyzes current ministry practices in light of cultural trends. Also focuses on the faith experiences of children.

CFM 631x. Youth Ministry. (See CE 335).

CFM 641. College and Young Adult Ministry. Explores the theories and practices of ministry directed toward college students and young adults. Emphasizes the developmental and cultural dynamics of the young adult years and the practical implications of a biblical philosophy of discipleship for identity development, character education, worldview construction, and spiritual formation. The course is relevant for anyone ministering to college students and/or young adults in the local church or in a college/university context.

CFM 651. Adult Ministries. Examines the principles and methods of adult ministry in the church with particular attention given to non-formal education. Explores the nature of defining, developing, and evaluating educational experiences in non-formal settings with an eye for their unique ministry contributions. (2)

CFM 662. Theology and Practice of Outdoor Adventure Leadership. This course is the foundational overview of the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Concentration of the Wheaton Graduate School.  It is designed to equip students personally, spiritually and communally for a life of leadership and ministry in outdoor related ministries by helping students to develop personal vision, ministry skills, interpersonal competence, and a ministry philosophy. This course is offered in a modular format at HoneyRock.

CFM 663. Leadership Development in Outdoor Adventure Leadership. The outdoor and adventure ministry context is an excellent laboratory for equipping leaders for the church and society worldwide.  This course is designed to help students develop principles and competencies to enhance their own leadership practice and to cultivate an approach to ministry that facilitates leadership development in those who serve and are served in the adventure ministry setting.  The course will explore the integration of personal leadership, vision, and understanding as well as facilitating change in organizations and groups.  Offered in a modular format at HoneyRock.

CFM 664. Wilderness Programming and Leadership. This course emphasizes the uniqueness of the wilderness classroom and teaches students to utilize extensive wilderness expeditions to draw others to Christ and develop them into whole and effective people.  The course covers program models and planning processes, various outdoor and leadership skills needed for wilderness ministry, and how God uses silence, creation, and group problem-solving to develop disciples. It is offered almost entirely in the wilderness classroom and as an extended expedition during multiple times and at multiple sites each year.  This course is offered through HoneyRock.

CFM 681. Comprehensive Exam. (0) Fee: $140.  Prerequisite: Candidacy status.

CFM 691. Concentration Mentoring Group. Within each concentration of the CFM masters program, students will meet in a small mentoring group to discuss their academic progress, spiritual formation, and development of practical ministry skills. (0)

CFM 692. Creative Project. Prerequisite: Dept. approval of student's Final Project Proposal. (2)

CFM 694. Current Issues in Christian Formation and Ministry. Provides opportunity for advanced students to study collectively some topic or concept in greater depth, or to explore a specialized topic and its relationship to an understanding and practice of Christian Formation and Ministry. Topics will vary and will be determined by department faculty members. (2 or 4)

CFM 695. Independent Study. Focuses on field or library research according to individual interests and competencies in Christian Formation and Ministry. (1-4)

CFM 696. Internship. Provides advanced students the opportunity to have a better understanding of ministry theory and practice by working and studying alongside a competent, authorized professional in Christian ministry.  Includes a summative paper of reflection and analysis of the learning that occurred and its significance for future ministry (due semester after internship). Prerequisite: Internship Application approval. (2)

CFM 698. Applied Thesis/Thesis. Prerequisite: Dept. approval of student's Final Project Proposal. (2)

CFM 699. Final Project Continuation. (0)

Courses Offered through the Institute for Prison Ministries (Billy Graham Center):

CFM 501. Dimensions of Correctional Ministries. This course will provide an overview of ministry to offenders and their families and the biblically-based role of the Church in that effort.  In addition, the course will examine the basic structure and functions of the criminal justice system and the cultural distinctives that govern it.  The primary focus will be on the multiple ministry opportunities present in each of the various phases of the criminal justice system—presentencing, long-term incarceration, and reentry.

CFM 502. Dynamics of Working with Offenders. This course will examine the common characteristics of offenders, the specialized approaches to ministering within a correctional facility, and the biblical corollaries for transformation as they pertain to offenders. Special attention will be given to the psycho-sociological factors that contribute to criminality, as well as to ways institutional conditions damage family structures, add to the pains of incarceration, and impair successful reentry.  Students will examine possible solutions for overcoming these deficits and helping inmates prepare for a return to their communities.

CFM 503. Leadership and Spiritual Formation of Offenders. This course is designed for those in correctional ministry to develop personal leadership, be effective witnesses and be equipped to encourage others to grow in their faith as followers of Christ.

CFM 504. Foundations of Correctional Chaplaincy. An overview of correctional chaplaincy as it functions in jails and prisons.  The course will examine the history of correctional chaplaincy, the special skills and abilities the professional chaplain must possess, the critical dimensions of the multiple roles a chaplain assumes, and the constitutional mandates that govern the delivery of religious services in an institutional setting.  Special focus will be placed on the chaplains as “agents of change,” the “ministry of presence,” on effective volunteer management, and the development of individualized ministry plans. (3)

CFM 505. Foundations of Offender Reentry. This course will provide participants knowledge of the biblical foundation for reentry ministry and reentry statistics that will help them describe the issues, barriers, and challenges to successful ex-offender reentry.  The course will also describe the phases and key principles of reentry with emphasis on making decisions related to practical planning for your ministry along with the reality of the collaborative nature of individuals, churches, organizations, and the community to assist the ex-offender with reentry. (3)

CFM 506. Correctional Ministries Program Development and Evaluation. This course equips those who work in correctional ministries plan, administrate and provide learning experiences that help offenders/ex-offenders develop life skills, transform their thinking and encounter the person of God and the truths of His Word. (3)

CFM 507. Organizational Administration for Non-Profit Correctional Ministries. This course provides an overview of the principles and practices for leading and managing a not-for-profit organization.  Topics introduced will include leadership, ethics, strategic planning, operating policies, board governance, human relations, marketing, fundraising, financial management, collaborative partnerships, and program evaluation as they relate to non-profit correctional organizations.  Each topic will be approached from a biblical perspective. (3)

CFM 508. Care and Counseling in Correctional Ministry. This course provides an introduction to the unique challenges and strategies involved in care and counseling within a correctional setting as presented by correctional staff, the incarcerated and the families of offenders.  Focus will be given to an introductory knowledge of the problems of human suffering, biblical foundations for care in ministry, rudimentary person-to-person helping skills, as well as general counseling theories and techniques applicable to the correctional setting.  Consideration will be given to ethical issues, knowing one’s limits of competence and knowledge, and of when and to whom one should refer.  Attention will be given to issues of diversity and their implications for the utility of the concepts of this course where possible. (3)

CFM 509. Case Management and Mentoring Offenders. The course will examine theories and practices in case management and mentoring for successful reentry of offenders. Assessment and program development will be discussed.  Opportunities for role play and application will be utilized. (3)

CFM 593. Correctional Ministry Capstone Project. The Capstone Project requires critical evaluation of important issues in the field of correctional ministry and the integration of both theory and practice.  The project is planned and conducted under the supervision of the Capstone Advisor and includes both a written and oral evaluation. (3)

CFM 596. Correctional Ministries Practicum. This course provides an opportunity for students to develop skills and learning in a correctional ministry area under the guidance of an experienced ministry supervisor and the Internship Coordinator. Interns must follow the Correctional Ministries Internship Guidelines. Prerequisites: Students must be enrolled in the Correctional Ministry Credential Program and receive IPM Director’s approval prior to course enrollment. (3)

CFM 598. Spiritual Mentor. A core component of the correctional ministry courses program is a spiritual mentor relationship from the student’s church.  The purpose is to provide support, accountability and connection with the local church.  The role of the Spiritual Mentor is to focus on the student’s spiritual formation and serve somewhat as a spiritual director. Pass/fail. (0)

Revision Date: June 1, 2013



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