Group spiritual direction is as varied as the groups and directors involved. There are two models, though, that are popular and helpful to know about. I learned them with names that sound like a Three Musketeers’ motto, but you may hear them described differently.
This is a well-known model for introducing spiritual direction to people who want to learn about it in community. In this model, the “one” in the title is the spiritual director who spends a designated amount of time in a mini-session with each group member, one at a time, as everyone (the “all”) observes in silence. If you are not the person sharing your story, then you are not going to be interacting with the spiritual director or anyone else. There is to be no responding or reacting to what is shared by another person in the group. The role of the “all” is to observe and pray for the person who is sharing.
The spiritual director will decide, based on the number of people in the group and the overall time allotted, how long each mini-session will go. He or she will also take silent breaks between each person’s sharing.
Because these sessions are short, there may be little interaction between the person sharing and the director. It all depends on how the Spirit moves in each session and how much time is available. Time-keeping is very important in these One-for-All group sessions.
At the end, if there is time and if the director feels it is appropriate, he or she may ask the group to reflect on what they heard. Where did they feel God’s presence most deeply in the sessions they observed? This is not a time for you to give your opinion on anything specific that someone said, but to share how you experienced the Holy during the group experience.
This model requires a bit of instruction and preparation of the group before launching into a session. In this model, group members (the “all”) act as spiritual guides for one member of the group (the “one,” which we will call a focus person). The trained spiritual director serves as facilitator, keeping time, making sure the focus person’s story is heard and honored, and upholds important guidelines for interacting with the focus person. The focus person begins by sharing whatever is on his or her heart and everyone else in the group intently listens, voicing open-ended questions, observations or non-judgmental reflections when the time is right. Everyone in the group is asked to stay attuned to the flow and attentive to the need for appropriate silence while this process unfolds. More than one person could be the focus person at each gathering, as long as you complete one session before going to the next.
The crucial guideline for sharing with the focus person is that there is to be no attempt at fixing, saving, advising, or “setting the focus person straight.” The spiritual director’s job is to intervene if this guideline is not upheld.
One value of this model of direction is that everyone learns valuable skills in listening and responding to another’s sharing.
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