What exactly is spiritual direction? Shepherd Heart Ministry Consulting’s Executive Director Dr. Melissa Hofstetter sat down to interview me about that very question — because the term “spiritual direction” needs to be fully understood.
Generally, spiritual direction means meeting every few weeks with a spiritual director, or spiritual companion. Since there’s a form of it in just about any religion (it comes up a lot in the Catholic faith), directors go by many names. What all of these forms share is the act of meeting with someone to talk about where we’ve seen the divine in our daily lives, or how we’re not able to see the divine where we thought we would.
It’s not therapy, even if it’s therapeutic. This is a spiritual exercise that helps focus our minds on figuring out where God is in our lives, on deciphering the signs in our own lives to understand where it is we’re being called. We directors like to say: “It’s a long, loving look at the real,” which comes from Jesuit Theologian Walter J. Burkhardt.
People come to us for a few different reasons. One is a greater awareness of God, maybe to reconnect or find a connection they didn’t have before. People also come to spiritual directors to reflect on an experience in their life to find meaning in it. The last reason is discernment, when we want to explore a life decision in depth before moving forward.
Though a lot of spiritual direction involves one-on-one interaction, it can also be useful for couples, families, and professional teams that want to take time with situations and decisions in a way that aligns with their values. Spiritual direction asks us to pause, individually or as a group, and really consider what’s going on in our lives.
A good director is trained to listen deeply, intently, so they can ask the right questions and get their directee to open up a little more. Through that work — again, maybe just once a month — spiritual direction can help us find a spiritual exercise like meditation, chanting, prayer, or reading, that gets us in touch with God on a daily basis, or simply enables us to connect with that divine voice within.
Dr. Melissa Hofstetter is Founder and Executive Director of Shepherd Heart Ministry Consulting, ministry that provides spiritual direction for congregations and clergy. Learn more about them on their website.
Want to learn more about spiritual direction? I have a book Spiritual Direction 101: The Basics of Spiritual Guidance by Apocryphile Press that addresses many aspects of this practice. It’s available on Amazon.