Spiritual Direction and the Seminarian

Spiritual Direction and the Seminarian January 13, 2016

seminaryAlthough spiritual direction is for anyone who wants it, there are special populations that seem to find the practice almost essential. Such as people preparing for, attending or just coming out of theological seminary.

Seminarians have special needs because they are confronting content that challenges and enriches their faith life daily.  Many come to spiritual direction for grounding—they need one person in their life who will listen deeply, not judge and help them process what they are learning. Some seminarians have a crisis of faith during their time in graduate school. They may find professors teaching material that runs counter to what they learned about faith as a child. They may find professors and other seminarians with very different beliefs than their own. It’s common for one to feel their world has been “put in a blender” so-to-speak at seminary.

Seminary students have stressors that other graduate students experience as well. Many are financially challenged and may work part-time jobs outside of a full-time load of classes just to get by. With the introduction of online seminaries, it is not uncommon to find an older adult who has a family and a full-time job spending hours on their computer taking in-depth seminary courses. A spiritual director can help the seminarian become more aware of his or her time limitations and assist as they discern what tasks take priority and which ones may need to be postponed during this busy time.

It’s easy for seminarians to get focused on learning about God and lose sight of spending time in God’s presence. Study can be for some people a contemplative spiritual practice, but for others it’s just hard work. And hard work, trying schedules and complicated content can start to edge out a daily prayer practice. Many seminarians say they enjoy spiritual direction because it is a monthly practice they can commit to, and they know their spiritual director will ask them about their spiritual practice. In that way it becomes an accountability practice.

Some open-ended questions I like to ask seminarians in spiritual direction are:

  • What are you learning that is most meaningful for you right now?
  • What is challenging you?
  • How are you staying in touch with God’s presence in the midst of your studies?
  • What decisions do you have to make in the next few months that we can reflect on together?
  • Which activities are giving you the most life?
  • Which activities are draining you?
  • How is God inviting you to draw closer while you are in seminary?

Naturally, I believe all seminarians should be in spiritual direction! That’s why I (and most spiritual directors) offer a sliding scale so that spiritual direction doesn’t become another financial burden for the student. When I was in seminary, I was lucky enough to be at an institution that trained spiritual directors so we had a lot of directors-in-training who needed directees for their internships. It was a great source of low-cost spiritual direction for any student who needed it.

If you are a seminarian and are wondering how to find the right spiritual director, begin by contacting your Dean of Students’ office. They should know of some directors who are taking on students. If that doesn’t work, you can always call the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction at 480-886-3828 and I would be glad to help you find a spiritual director.

If you are interested in learning more about spiritual direction or entering spiritual direction with me, please contact me at teresa@teresablythe.net  or visit www.teresablythe.net.  Also visit my website for the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction.

Photo credit: kern.justin via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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