Master of Arts in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership

Learn from distinguished faculty members

The Master of Arts in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership (MACSFL) is designed as a personal growth, academic and professional program for both lay people and people in professional ministry. You will receive the tools and resources for developing a framework for spiritual formation, while building a stronger theological foundation.

Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership

Earn your degree in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership.

Program Highlights

Real-world knowledge. Supportive learning.

As an intensive, integrative program within the Apprentice Institute for Christian spiritual formation at Friends University, you will have the opportunity to learn from some of the brightest minds in the field of Christian spiritual formation.

Grow Deeper

Students in the program will grow deeper in their relationship with God and with other like-minded Christians. This occurs through transformation teaching, soul training exercises and group processing.

Hybrid Design

The CSFL is a 35-credit program that follows a hybrid design (19 credits online, 16 credits via residency) and is founded on the teachings of Dallas Willard, and James Bryan Smith’s Triangle of Transformation.

Learn From the Brightest

Distinguished faculty members researching and authoring in the field include James Bryan Smith, John Mark Comer, Jan Johnson, Keas Keasler, Emily P. Freeman, A.J. Swoboda, J.R. Briggs, Tim Keel, and Deb Hirsch.

Immersive Learning

The curriculum is delivered through cohort groups of students who progress through the degree requirements sequentially, which includes online coursework, retreats, seminars and workshops.

Relationship Building

One of the most important aspects of CSFL is the relationship building through on-site retreats, small groups, conference events and online discussion forums.

Not Just Head Knowledge

Striking a balance between academic rigor and experiential learning means you will not only be using your mind, but learning from experiences and observation.

“My understanding of spirituality, how I practice my life, and how I move into the world around me has been shaped and formed in so many good ways through the CSFL program at Friends. I’m learning how to walk into a room like a leader even when I’m not in charge and that true ministry is not something we do, it’s an overflow of life with God in his kingdom.”

Emily P. Freeman, author of The Next Right Thing and CSFL graduate

“Not only does the Master’s in Christian Spiritual Formation and Leadership program take seriously our dire need for deeper discipleship practices, as a bi-vocational pastor, I can also attest that it delivers high-level instruction combined with exceptional value and a realistic pace that can fit even into a busy schedule. This was the program I was waiting for.”

Neal Whitlow, bi-vocational pastor and CSFL graduate

Learning Environment

Formation into a Christ-centered way of life

This program is committed to a high Christology within an orthodox theological framework. We strive to encourage formation into a Christ-centered way of life, with a view to cultivate spiritual habits and virtues. Our faculty and instructors have high respect for our common heritage and ancient Christian tradition.

It’s not all head knowledge with us. You will experience a program with academic rigor and excellence, yet practical and experiential at all levels of instruction. Each student will have access to a spiritual director during residency, and on an ongoing basis throughout the entire program.

One of the greatest components of the CSFL program is the relationships. The closed cohort format facilitates a deep sense of community and accountability. Students don’t just learn together – they “do life” together. This happens through a variety of approaches, including on-site retreats, small groups, and online discussion forums.

This program is designed to fit into your life but will require significant time in your weekly schedule. You will learn the dynamics of the Online Learning Community and the systems needed for success in the program.

The fall 2024 cohort is full, but we are accepting applications for Cohort 10, which will launch in fall 2025. The priority application deadline is February 1, 2025, and the general application deadline is April 15, 2025. If you have any questions regarding the application process, please reach out to Carissa Bowers

The residency weeks for the fall 2024 cohort are scheduled for the following times:

  • CSFL 505: November 17-22, 2024
  • CSFL 521: April 6-11, 2025
  • CSFL 611: September 14-19, 2025
  • CSFL 621: May 3-May 8, 2026


  • Demonstrate a deeper understanding of Christian spiritual formation through rhythms and practices leading to a Christ-centered, with-God life.
  • Demonstrate an approach to building vibrant, sustainable spiritual formation in various ministry contexts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to cultivate community with people from various backgrounds through real, long-term relationships.

Featured Faculty

J.R. Briggs

Dr. J.R. Briggs

  • Residency Lecturer
  • B.A., Taylor University; M.A., Biblical Theological Seminary, D.Min., Missio Seminary
Emily Freeman

Emily P Freeman

  • Residency Lecturer
  • B.S., University of North Carolina Greensboro; M.A., Friends University
Paul Hill

Paul Hill

  • Adjunct Professor of Holy Scriptures
  • B.S., Manhattan Christian College; M.S., Friends University; M.A., Johnson University
Jana Hinz

Jana Hinz

  • Residency Lecturer
  • B.S., Wichita State University; M.S.MFT, Friends University; DMFT, Northcentral University (Candidate)
Deb Hirsch

Deb Hirsch

  • Residency Lecturer
  • B.Th., Bible College of Victoria; Grad Dip., Kingsley College
Cyd Holsclaw

Cyd Holsclaw

  • Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Direction
  • B.A., Olaf College; M.A., Northern Illinois University
Jan Johnson

Dr. Jan Johnson

  • Adjunct Professor of Christian Spiritual Formation
  • B.A., Ozark Christian College; D.Min., Graduate Theological Foundation
Keas Keasler

Dr. Keas Keasler

  • Assistant Professor of Christian Spiritual Formation; Program Director of Christian Spiritual Formation
  • Theology & Humanities
  • B.A., Baylor University; M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Tim Keel

Tim Keel

  • Adjunct Professor of Theology
  • B.F.A., University of Kansas; M.Div., Denver Seminary
Keith Matthews

Dr. Keith Matthews

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary; D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary
MaryKate Morse

Dr. MaryKate Morse

  • Guest Lecturer
  • M.A., Portland Seminary; M.Div., Portland Seminary; Ph.D., Gonzaga University
John Ortberg

Dr. John Ortberg

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Wheaton College; M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary
Steve Porter

Dr. Steve Porter

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Biola University; M.A., Talbot School of Theology; Ph.D., University of Southern California
Natasha Robinson

Dr. Natasha S Robinson

  • Residency Lecturer
  • B.S., United States Naval Academy; M.A., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; D.Min. (Candidate), North Park Seminary
Ronald Rolheiser

Dr. Ronald Rolheiser

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., University of Ottawa; B.Th., Newman Theological College; M.A., University of San Francisco; M.R.Sc., University of Louvain; Ph.D/STD, University of Louvain
Gemma Ryan

Gemma Ryan

  • Adjunct Professor of Christian Spiritual Formation
  • B.A., Trinity College Dublin; M.A., Friends University
Jim Smith

Dr. Jim Smith

  • Professor of Religion; Dallas Willard Chair for Christian Spiritual Formation
  • Theology & Humanities
  • B.A., Friends University; M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary
A.J. Swoboda

Dr. A.J. Swoboda

  • Program Director, Doctor of Ministry in Formation and Soul Care; Adjunct Professor of Church History
  • Theology & Humanities
  • B.A., New Hope Christian College; M.A., Portland Seminary; Ph.D., University of Birmingham
Reggie Williams

Dr. Reggie Williams

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Westmont College; M.A., Fuller Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary
Darryl Williamson

Darryl Williamson

  • Residency Lecturer
  • Boston University; M.Div., Reformed Theological Seminary (Candidate)

Past Faculty

Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Eastern University; Princeton Theological Seminary
John Mark Comer

John Mark Comer

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Calvary Chapel Bible College; M.A. Western Seminary
Elaine Heath

Dr. Elaine Heath

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Oakland University; M.Div., Ashland Theological Seminary; Ph.D., Duquesne University
Scot McKnight

Dr. Scot McKnight

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Cornerstone University; M.A., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Ph.D., University of Nottingham
Curt Thompson

Dr. Curt Thompson

  • Guest Lecturer
  • B.A., Malone University; M.D., Wright State University School of Medicine

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