What Clergy Need to Know about Spiritual Direction

What Clergy Need to Know about Spiritual Direction May 1, 2017

direction sessionSpiritual direction is a clergyperson’s best friend. Deep listening and discernment enhance the life of a congregation and its leaders, so if you are clergy, I hope you consider how this spiritual practice can be used or expanded in your work. If you are a layperson, please pass this good news along to the clergy in your life.


What do clergy need to know about spiritual direction?

You need it in your life!

Spiritual direction is a contemplative, confidential space to share your deepest longings, frustrations, prayers and sense of purpose. Who, in ministry, doesn’t need that? Many clergy allow the tending of their own spiritual life to wither as they busily assist others with pastoral care, counseling and theological reflection. A once-a-month visit with a spiritual director who has no agenda for you except that you reflect on your own spiritual path for an hour is refreshing and renewing. If you choose someone outside your faith tradition or denomination, you may find the time even more liberating. They may be able to see aspects of your experience that you have not considered.

Spiritual directors can lighten your workload

The dirty little secret is that not all clergy enjoy or feel qualified doing extensive one-on-one pastoral care with people in their congregations. In any congregation, there is a small percentage of people who are deeply engaged in the contemplative search for connection with God. They sometimes want and need a person to talk to about their spiritual path on a regular basis. A spiritual director would suit them well. Many pastors observe a three-visits-and-then-refer-out policy. If what the person needs is more spiritual than psychological, refer them to a spiritual director. Clergy who are worried that spiritual direction may cost too much have two choices:  find a spiritual director with a sliding scale (that’s most of us) or come up with an agreement in which the church pays the spiritual director and offers vouchers to the congregant.

Spiritual Directors can teach spiritual formation for you

Most spiritual directors are happy to teach classes in prayer, discernment, stages along the spiritual journey, or any other class that would qualify as spiritual formation or development. We enjoy teaching because we actually don’t do much teaching in spiritual direction (we mostly listen and ask insightful questions) and we find that when people learn more about spiritual formation, they sometimes want to be in spiritual direction. So, it’s a valuable marketing tool for us.

Becoming a spiritual director can change the way you do ministry

I know clergy are busy and may not want to develop a bustling spiritual direction practice, but going through a spiritual direction formation and training program is an excellent way to learn new tools for the current ministry. Once you become a spiritual director, you begin to see people and situations through a different lens. You become less anxious to rescue or change other people. When congregants come for counsel, a clergy-spiritual director can use the principles of deep listening and evocative questions to allow that person to find and appreciate their own wisdom. Many clergy who go through training programs say they feel a sense of liberation as they do their same tasks but with a different attitude.

No matter how clergy choose to use spiritual direction, I am convinced it can transform ministry.

Want to try spiritual direction? I have openings in my schedule for new directees—regardless of where you live. I can work by phone, Skype or if you live in the Phoenix metro area we can meet in person. Contact me at teresa@teresablythe.net  or visit www.teresablythe.net.  Also visit my website for the Phoenix Center for Spiritual Direction.

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