Formation for Ministry

A Calvin Seminary education is about transforming both your mind and your heart for effective leadership in God’s Kingdom.

We take seriously your formation – the way your skills and character are shaped – and believe that the development of a posture of humble learning from others is a critical part of your education. We utilize a variety of tools to help you build the practical experience and vital relationships necessary for perseverance in ministry.

We believe that a successful education entails not only rigorous academic training, but two very important outcomes:

  • A clear sense of the gifts you’ve been given and the call you will pursue
  • The ability and desire to practice healthy spiritual self-care

The tools we engage to achieve these outcomes include formation groups, local church participation, vocational mentors, and internships.

A Key Tool for Growing Your Heart and Calling: Formation Groups
We cannot say this enough: learning alongside peers in a posture of humility and prayer is absolutely essential to your formation for ministry. Your Formation Group will give you the opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow with fellow students under the care of a seasoned ministry leader and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These groups become a community through which your character and your call are challenged and refined, and a life-giving source of encouragement, critical reflection, and prayer.

A Key Tool for Connecting Skills and Education: Local Churches and Vocational Mentoring
Participation in a local congregation and the guidance of a vocational mentor serve as bridges between your classroom learning and the day-to-day rigors of ministry leadership. With over 700 churches and many thriving ministries in the Grand Rapids area, there is no shortage of options for finding the best place to grow. The Vocational Formation Office will support you as you find a church and seek a vocational mentor, who will often come from the congregation you’ve selected.

A Key Tool in Your Formation for Ministry: Contextual Learning
There is no substitute for experience. The ability to take concepts and ideas and make them work in day-to-day ministry is something that every Kingdom leader must be able to do. Consequently, we believe that a vital part of your formation for ministry involves meaningful and extended times of contextual learning. Contextual Learning experiences (also known as internships) allow students to employ skills and classroom learning in a ministry context. In addition, internships often provide students with a dramatic increase in clarity about their particular God-authored calling in the world.

Though internships are a requirement of the Master of Divinity and professional Master of Arts curricula, the program design allows for an incredible amount of creativity in how those requirements are met. The office of Vocational Formation works with each student to identify individual passions and construct internships that will stretch and bless them.

The contextual learning portion of a student’s seminary education can be completed concurrently (during the course of the academic year) or during the summer months. Students who complete their internships over the summer have the option to do so in an international setting.

Additionally, both Master of Arts and Master of Divinity students have the option of fulfilling their required contextual learning hours through the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, (CPE), an international program for developing pastoral care skills in a clinical setting. Students interested in chaplaincy in hospital, military, or other institutional settings find this certification particularly valuable.

Master of Arts students in professional programs are required to complete a 200-hour specialized ministry internship.

Specialized Ministry Internship (SMI)
Uniquely crafted to help Master of Arts students grow and learn in their area of specialization, the SMI is for students with specializations in Educational Ministry, Youth & Family Ministries, Worship, Evangelism & Missions, or Pastoral Care.

Master of Divinity students are required to participate in a 200-hour cross-cultural internship and a 400-hour pastoral internship.

The Cross Cultural Internship
We define cross-cultural as “anything that takes you outside your comfort zone.” Be it in a prison, a church halfway across the world, or simply the ministry across the street geared towards people of a different economic background, we often learn the most in contexts that are new and different. That’s the thinking behind students heading out for a cross-cultural internship early on in their seminary education: experiences that challenge assumptions often yield incredible moments of learning about one’s calling and passions for ministry.

The Pastoral Internship
Learning about the rhythm and pace of ministry, developing strategies for keeping your heart and life with Jesus deep and fresh, tackling practical leadership challenges, and strengthening skills such as preaching, teaching and public speaking are all outcomes which students report as part of their pastoral internship experience. Students can leverage Calvin Seminary’s connections with local churches and ministries or propose their own ministry setting for completing the pastoral internship.

Questions about internship settings, formation groups, or anything else handled by the office of Vocational Formation? We invite you to contact us at