The practice of spiritual direction has been providing nurture to Christians for many centuries.
During spiritual direction, the individual meets with another Christian for the sole purpose of examining his/her own relationship with God; it can also be described as a form of soul care.
These meetings can be scheduled weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
What is the role of the spiritual director?
The spiritual director is not in the meeting as an advisor, but more as a facilitator, helping the person to focus on what God is busy doing in their life. They may also be known as spiritual guides, spiritual advisors, or spiritual companions (3); they are not a spiritual authority figure in the life of the directee (2).
For a person to be effective and available to others in ministry it is important to be centred in one’s faith, and understanding of what God is doing. The spiritual director is someone a Christian can turn to when their life is falling apart, or when they are in need of clear understanding of God’s presence and work in their life (3).
What are the benefits of spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is important, because it helps the individual on their spiritual journey, making it a less isolated experience. It can also bring a greater awareness of the presence of God in one’s own life (2).
What is the difference between spiritual direction, pastoral counselling and psychological counselling?
The goal of spiritual direction is to help the person discover how God is working in their life, and to facilitate a creative and loving response to God.
Pastoral counselling is focused on living a Bible-based life. The person is assisted and motivated to grow to a greater personal knowledge and understanding of God’s grace and love.
Psychological counselling helps the individual to develop a greater personal understanding and freedom of choice that is gained through better self-knowledge (3).
What happens during spiritual direction?
The focus of spiritual direction is to experience God in the individual’s daily life, so the spiritual director creates a safe space where the client feels they can honestly reflect on what God is doing in their life, but also listen to what God is saying to them. The time spent in spiritual direction is unhurried, and likely includes conversation, silence, readings and prayer; there is no set program or procedure (2).
Listening is important for growing one’s relationship with God. One of the reasons people come to spiritual direction is to get help to improve their listening skills; as it is in listening that we find out what God is doing in our lives. This knowledge will then help a person to grow spiritually (2).
Who would benefit from spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is open to any person who wants a deeper relationship with God, but because the focus is reflecting on one’s faith journey, it will be more beneficial for people who are not newcomers to the Christian faith.
In fact, it can be a valuable tool for Christian leaders, to continuously grow in their relationship with God. It is said that C.S. Lewis met his spiritual director once a week for a period of 11 years, with their relationship only ending when the spiritual director passed away.
Spiritual direction can help Christians in leadership roles, due to the loneliness and isolation they can experience; it gives them the opportunity to reflect on their lives and God, as well as being able to confidentially partner with the spiritual director around issues they may be struggling with. Additionally, it gives the leader the opportunity to be accountable to someone for what is happening in their spiritual life (2).
It is interesting to note that in spiritual direction there is a move away from just talking about God, to reflecting on one’s experience with God. As a result of spiritual direction, individuals experience an increased awareness of God, and spiritual growth; many say they experience a greater freedom in their relationship with God, enjoyment of God, knowledge of God and clarity of what God is doing. They also mention a sense of great peace in their lives due to what they experience during spiritual direction (2).
It is important to note that spiritual direction is not discipleship, it is not counselling, and it is not preaching.
In summary, spiritual direction can be described as a ministry of support, where one person walks beside another person in their faith journey.
A focused ministry of listening, prayer and conversation, spiritual direction is a refreshing, positive experience in the “introspective individualistic age” we are currently living in, where people feel they do not need anyone to journey with them (1).
Author: Corey Human, B Th (Hons), M Counselling, Dip Youth Work, Dip Youth Justice, Dip Couns, Dip Pentecostal Theology, Dip Ministry. Member of PACFA and CCAA.
Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience in providing counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans. In relationship counselling and education, his aim is to empower each couple with the tools to help themselves when they get to points of conflict in their relationship.
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- Culling,EA 2002. What is Spiritual Direction. https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/19-3_177.pdf
- Fraser, D N.D. Spiritual Direction; A Brief Introduction. https://www.tyndale.ca/sites/default/files/2018-02/Tyndale-Association-of-Spiritual-Directors-Introduction-to-Spiritual-Direction.pdf
- Gaines JS ND. A Basic Guide to Spiritual Direction. https://psr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Student-Life-OCL-A-Guide-to-Spiritual-Direction.pdf