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Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D., Professor of Theology and Center Director

The Masters and Doctorate in Specialized Ministry degrees with a concentration in Spiritual Formation at Northwind Seminary are intended for religious professionals who desire to teach spiritual formation, lead spiritual practice groups, and/or offer individual spiritual direction within their faith tradition.


Spiritual formation, I have come to believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection.  It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves.” -- Henri Nouwen

At the intersection of theology (study of God) and psychology (study of human psyche) is the place of spirituality.  One of the leading voices in Christian spirituality is psychologist-priest Henri J. M. Nouwen, author of over 40 books on the spiritual life.  Spiritual Formation, according to Nouwen, is the shaping of the human heart or deepest self, through intentional spiritual practices, leading to communion, community, and compassion in the world.  


Professor Michael Christensen (a former graduate student of Nouwen’s at Yale) describes Nouwen’s unique contribution to the field of pastoral psychology and spiritual development, this way: “Nouwen turned the ladder of divine ascent on its side and taught spiritual formation as a series of horizontal movements of the heart, back and forth, that require daily devotion and discipline, with the goal of human wholeness rather than divine perfection.” 

​The Northwind Certificate and Degree Programs in Spiritual Formation focus on the distinctive contribution of Henri Nouwen to spiritual direction, formation and discernment; as well as on the classical sources in the history of Christian spirituality that informed his unique approach. The practical focus of this concentration is on the dynamic process, practices, states, stages, movements, and various approaches to adult spiritual formation within the Christian tradition.  

A Doctor in Specialized Ministry degree is a professional doctorate in a specific understanding of ministry. Similar to the Doctor of Ministry degree (DMin), the D.S.Min requires 36 credit-hours of professional study leading to portfolio research, and paper which is reviewed by a faculty committee. 


These degrees are ideal for those who desire guided education and supervised project development with direct application to the understanding or practice of ministry.


Though not academic teaching degrees, these doctoral programs prepare 
candidates for the highest level of professional development offered by a theological seminary. 

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Michael J. Christensen, PhD

Director of The Center for Theology, Spirituality, and Ministry at Northwind

Professor of Theology & Spiritual Formation, Academic Dean

Meet Michael J. Christensen (M.A., Yale; Ph.D., Drew University), a noted expert in the life and works of Henri Nouwen. Michael is co-editor of The Heart of Henri Nouwen, The Nouwen Trilogy (Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Formation, and Discernment) and Partakers of the Divine Nature: the History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions. 

Faculty Mentors in Northwind’s Spiritual Formation Program

Core faculty, visiting professors, and guest lecturers serve as Faculty Mentors in the program, offering original lectures, recommended resources, and periodic participation in group discussions and doctoral committees. In addition to Professor Christensen, this year’s program faculty include:

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Associate Professor for Spiritual Formation

Christin is an accomplished educator, popular conference speaker, certified Prayer Labyrinth Facilitator, and author of more than 80 books and Bible studies, including the best-selling A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. She is currently developing a book combining the teachings of Nouwen on spiritual formation and the contemplative practice of walking the labyrinth.


Dr. Terry Glaspey (D.S.Min Spiritual Formation, Master of Arts, History)

Associate Professor for Spiritual Formation and Inklings Studies

Terry is a writer, editor, teacher, and international speaker on spiritual formation and the visual arts, and the author of award-winning books, including: 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know, Discovering God Through the Arts, and The Spiritual Legacy of C. S. Lewis

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Dr. Robert A. Jonas (Ed.D., Psychology)

Guest Lecturer for Spiritual Formation

“Jonas” as he prefers to be called, is founder and director of The Empty Bell, a contemplative sanctuary in Northampton, MA, with a special emphasis on the Buddhist-Christian dialogue and on the arts.  He is author/creator of several books, videos, and music CDs, and editor of Henri Nouwen: Selected Writings. 


Dr. Wil Henandez (Ph.D., Practical Theology and Spiritual Formation)

Guest Lecturer for Spiritual Formation

Wil is founder and director of CenterQuest, author of a trilogy of books on Henri Nouwen, and serves on the editorial panel of Presence, the journal published by Spiritual Directors International (SDI). He conducts retreats and workshops across the U.S. and abroad focusing on the spirituality of Nouwen.

Spiritual Formation Degrees are offered by Northwind Seminary

A Certificate in Spiritual Formation is offered by Northwind Institute.

Featured Video: Introduction to Spiritual Formation

with Dr. Michael J. Christensen

Master's Degree
Specialized Ministry
30 Credit Hours

Four 3- Credit Courses:

Introduction to Graduate Studies

Dr. Christin Ditchfield-Lazo

Three Courses transferred from

Northwind Institute:


Nouwen Spiritual Direction

Nouwen Spiritual Formation

Nouwen Spiritual Discernment


Three 6-Credit Courses:


Capstone Research Methods

Dr. Robert J Duncan, Jr.

Capstone Research I

Assigned Faculty

Capstone Paper

Assigned Faculty

Doctoral Degree
Specialized Ministry
36 Credit Hours

Four 3-Credit Courses:

Christian Tradition
Dr. Michael J. 

The Spiritual Life

Dr. Christin Ditchfield-Lazo

Spiritual Formation & The Arts
Dr. Terry Glaspey

Reading Henri Nouwen with His Sources

Dr. Michael J. Christensen

Four 6-Credit Courses:

Treatise Research Methods

Dr. Carl Savage

Treatise Research I

Assigned Faculty

Treatise Research II

Assigned Faculty

Treatise Paper

Assigned Faculty

Faculty-Mentor Directed

The Faculty Mentor facilitates scheduled video conversations and participates in the portfolio preparation and examination.

Online and Flexible

Students set their own schedule and proceed at their own pace. Each course can be completed within 30 to 90 days.

Capstone Experience

Students in Master's Programs journey through a series of research milestones to generate the final Capstone Project that addresses a 

Need or Opportunity in their ministry context.

Treatise Experience

Students journey through a series of research milestones to generate the final Project Portfolio that addresses a new understanding of their approach to ministry.

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