9 Essential Spiritual Disciplines for the Ministry Student

A female Christian studies student takes communion at a PLNU chapel. She is wearing a black shirt and has brown hair.

Pursuing a degree in ministry can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Whether you are seeking a career as a pastor, theologian, biblical studies scholar or worship leader, it can be incredibly beneficial to deepen your theological and practical knowledge of the field. 

However, the practice of ministry and the busyness that comes with it can often overshadow your personal need for spiritual formation. If you are pursuing a degree in Christian ministry, making spiritual formation an integral part of your experience is a worthy goal that will help you serve others in a spiritually healthy way.

What is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual formation is a term describing the process of becoming more like Christ. In his book Foundations of Spiritual Formation, author Paul Pettit defines it as “the ongoing process of the triune God transforming the believer’s life and character toward the life and character of Jesus Christ — accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit in the context of biblical community.”

In other words, spiritual formation is the process of God transforming a person’s life in such a way that it leads to greater intimacy and a better relationship with Him. This intimacy with God usually translates into a change in character and attitudes, having those more aptly reflect Christ’s character. 

The way you can begin the process of spiritual formation is through the practice of spiritual disciplines

What are Spiritual Disciplines?

Before getting into what spiritual disciplines are, it’s important to define the term discipleship

According to Chris Byrely, author of the Lexham Theological Workbook, discipleship is “the process of devoting oneself to a teacher to learn from and become more like them.”

For Christians, discipleship is devoting yourself to Christ and learning to become more like Him. The main way you can pursue a life of discipleship is by regularly engaging with the spiritual disciplines. 

These disciplines or practices can help the Christian better pursue a life of holiness and godliness. 

There are three categories of spiritual disciplines as devised by Christian theologian Richard J. Foster. Those three categories are inward, outward, and corporate disciplines and are divided as such:

  • Inward disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, and study.
  • Outward disciplines: simplicity, solitude, submission, and service.
  • Corporate disciplines: confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. 

Over the centuries, Christians have defined many more spiritual disciplines. Realistically, we cannot expect every Christian to keep and practice every single one at all times (except for Scripture reading and prayer). Some of the disciplines may serve certain people better than others and how well they fit your temperament is key to whether they are effective in guiding the person towards increased spiritual formation. 

But through spiritual disciplines, the Christian can discover a way to maintain a close relationship with God and become more like Him. 

Here are 9 spiritual disciplines ministry students can practice to pursue spiritual formation:

9 Essential Spiritual Disciplines for the Ministry Student

Reading the Bible

As someone who is pursuing a ministry degree, you are probably well aware of the importance of reading Scripture. It is an integral part of the process of spiritual formation. However, as you study the Bible in an academic setting it can be easy to forget to read it for your own personal edification and spiritual health. 

As such, it’s important to take time to reflect and meditate on Scripture outside of the classroom, as a way to get to know God’s heart for you and for the world. 


Journaling is a great way to record your experiences in your spiritual journey and more aptly see where you’ve been, where you are, and perhaps even where you are going. It can also be a great release of your emotions and help you make sense of your experiences.

Setting aside some time to journal out your thoughts and prayers to God can be a great way to get closer to Him. 


Meeting with God through prayer is one of the main ways you can draw closer to Him. It is an opportunity to unload any burdens that you may have. It is also an opportunity for confession, giving thanks, and praising God. Prayer can be done at set times, but it can also be done throughout the day. 

Praying constantly and periodically can help you maintain that personal relationship with Christ and can help you feel closer to Him. Praying for others and for the world will help keep you aware and more sensitive to others’ needs and to the needs of the world. 

Who are you called to be?
Pursue your purpose at PLNU.


The word sabbath or “shabbat” in the Bible means to “stop working.” The idea behind the Sabbath is to rest from your work and be present with God. In a world where staying busy is often seen as a virtue, Christians employing a culture of holy rest can seem counterintuitive. Yet it is one of the essential  ways you can pursue spiritual formation. 

Practicing Sabbath as a discipline will help you navigate the rhythms of life through a holy lens and make room for God’s rest to enter into your life.

This could mean taking an afternoon off every week to rest and do something you enjoy while communing with God. It could mean taking an entire day off or perhaps even just an hour to not do anything but reflect on the Lord. Whatever it is, making room for God’s rest is a spiritual discipline that will help you draw closer to Him. 


Traditionally, fasting involves depriving yourself of food in order to spend more time with God. At its core is the concept of self-denial. You can fast from food, but many Christians have also opted to fast anything that is often a distraction or consumes much of their time like social media, sugar, or their phones. They then choose to spend that time with God instead or to use that deprivation as an opportunity to become even more aware of their need for God. 


The idea behind solitude is to take time away from the busyness of life and spend time with God alone. It is a way to step away from the distractions and worries of the world for a moment and dedicate that time solely to God. 

This helps us connect with God and truly reflect inwardly on the state of our spiritual life, taking up our concerns with God in prayer as well as spending time with Him and letting His presence transform us. 


Along with solitude is the practice of silence. It could involve being silent in the presence of God for 60 seconds, 30 minutes, or maybe even an hour. The practice of silence also involves being silent even when you are in the presence of others and may involve thinking before speaking or responding to outside stimulus or to other people. 

As we navigate modern life, it can be easy to drown in the opinions and news we hear every single day. Being able to take some time to be in complete silence with God can help us listen to what He has to say and navigate life through His rhythm. 


This discipline focuses on the needs of others rather than our own needs. It is an intentional setting aside of time and resources to bless others. That could mean paying for someone’s coffee or spending an afternoon with a friend who just lost a job. It could mean helping someone move into their new home or volunteering at the local shelter. Perhaps it means committing to demonstrating an act of kindness to a stranger each day or serving at your local church. 

Committing to serving others and focusing on others helps us draw attention away from ourselves and helps form us spiritually as we become more like Christ. 


Every Christian needs a strong community on which to lean on as they live out their faith. Whether it’s through a traditional church setting or a small group, Christians throughout history have asserted the importance of meeting together regularly for the purpose of worship, service, and mutual support. Communion with the body of Christ is essential for your spiritual formation as it is one of the main ways God speaks and is made known to people. 

However, fellowship does not just involve simply meeting together, but should involve intimate and meaningful relationships based on trust and keeping Christ at the center. 

Another great way to pursue spiritual formation is by increasing your knowledge and expanding your skillset in the field of ministry. 

PLNU’s School of Theology and Christian Ministry offers a variety of Christian ministry programs that will help you fulfill God’s calling on your life. It equips future ministers, biblical scholars, worship leaders, and others with foundational knowledge of Scripture, theology, and the practical experience needed for effective ministry. 

Apply Now

Request Info