One of the greatest gifts a spiritual director brings to any leadership team, council, session or board is the gift of non-attached observation. When you participate in working groups such as these it is easy to get bogged down in the work, making it difficult to step “onto the balcony” and see what is really going on. When working groups hire a spiritual director to attend their business meeting, they will get what is sometimes called a “compassionate observer” to reflect important information back to the group. Things like:
- Where the energy is high and lively or where it is low and deadly
- Where the group seems to be experiencing unity or disunity
- Some important questions that have not yet been asked
- Important questions that have been asked but not yet addressed
- Places where the group got derailed and “off-task”
- Places where some silent regrouping may be called for
- Choices which are being made hastily and call for more prayer and discernment
Because spiritual directors are trained to listen, observe and offer ways to move the interaction deeper, one salient observation or open-ended question at the right time can make a real difference.You can be creative in how you have the spiritual director work with your group. In some cases, the director sits at the table with the group and interacts as he or she feels is necessary (just like the director would in a one-on-one session with an individual). Another model is to have the spiritual director sit off to the side of the group observing the process and then give their observations or questions at a specified time, maybe even waiting until the end. Some groups that hire a spiritual director will have the director lead a spiritual practice at the beginning and end as well as their role of listening and observing in the middle.
In my perfect world, every church board, steering committee, search committee, visioning task force and every denominational working group (at every level) would avail itself of spiritual direction in this form. To be sure, stopping to consider important questions or praying over a choice slows things down in the short run, but in the long run the wisdom gained would be well worth the time.
For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.