Guide to Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Direction
All along the way of Jesus we are guided by the Holy Spirit into our fullness. On our journey we are supplied by gifted people who help us understand how we are being led by God. We have a church full of spiritual companions..
How we receive spiritual direction usually starts one-on-one, which leads to a cell, and may move into a “wind group” for a period as a person is incorporated into our covenant and mission; they may then be sustained in a “water group” or a relationship with a spiritual director. This moves with our “way of Jesus” metaphor of earth, wind, fire and water.
- In earth seasons, gifted people help us meet God for the first time or recognize a new work of God in us according to our stage of development. Thank God for spiritual friendship!
- In wind seasons, gifted people help us take our first steps in the Holy Spirit or help us experience how the wind is blowing us now. Our cells are crucial for spiritual formation. The cell leaders consciously creating opportunities for everyone to meet God in the cell and develop in their own way and time. They make sure they are not merely social hosts or amateur psychotherapists. When the wind first blows may be a good time to spend a season in a spiritual formation group or in a discipling relationship with a trusted guide. Often this guide is one's cell leader, but other relationships, formal and informal might be sought out and established. Thank God for pastoral care and teaching (vocational and otherwise).
- In fire seasons, gifted people help us understand our value to the community and the cause of Christ, or deepen our sense of vocation as we grow and age. This is the season for specialized training (see resources below) and maybe psychotherapy. Thank God for the leaders of our mission and the mentors who show us how to serve.
- In water seasons, gifted people help us take further steps into silence and our lifelong vocation in the Spirit. Spiritual directors have been available all along the way; now is the time to go deep with God. This is the best time to be a part of a spiritual direction group or to engage a personal spiritual director. Thank God for those who provide long-term deepening care.
Every person is called to accept the gift of life from their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is the starting point of a lifelong journey in discipleship as a follower of Jesus. As the apostle Paul says, we are to grow mature in Christ (Eph. 4:15). Such "growing up" is the process of spiritual formation. Our journey is not an end in itself, it is a pilgrimage on which we experience glimpses of our final destination in the age to come.
To be formed spiritually means to engage in life-giving practices and disciplines with the goal of putting on our new, true self as we draw near to God in Christ. As the old prayer leads us: "Day by day, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, and to follow thee more nearly." Spiritual formation is a process that sharpens our attentiveness to God and helps us to be more and more like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. These practices are shaped by our temperament and personality type.
Circle of Hope Daily Prayer :: WIND
This online resource is a collection of entries designed for those taking first steps in the Spirit and in relationship to Circle of hope. There are entries that help us pray through all of our proverbs and many of our other statements and plans, including our Map. The collection also has new elements every year that lead us through books or topics that are important for our formation.
Spiritual formation groups and discipling relationships
Our cells are our primary spiritual formation groups. At times groups may form by the inspiration or invitation of a leader in which disciples can take first or further steps in formation. Our Way of Jesus site provides material and stimulation for the journey. Pastors and others may form intentional relationships that mentor people in faith; all our cell leaders and most of our other leaders have apprentices. These groups and relationships are not mandated or formed by the church, they arise organically and are grown the same way. They are, however, overseen by our leaders and encouraged to remain within the common theology and vision we have received as a church.
Articles, videos, websites and books
- Surrender to Love -- David Benner
- Invitation to a Journey -- Robert Mulholland
- The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path -- Wilkie and Noreen Cannon Au
- A formation or “wind" group may have more content and be more directed. Renovare has a plan and a book.
- 5 Facets of Spiritual Formation -- John R. Throop
Everyone who follows Jesus is called to go deep with God. We are thirsting for water and those who offer it hold the center of the spiritual life in the church. Spiritual directors, as a gifted group, hold a sacred space for the whole church. Their gravity is crucial.Our pastors and the natural elders of our church form the core of our spiritual direction. But everyone gifted by the Spirit has wisdom and knowledge to share in their cell, the public meetings, teams and in every way they are inspired.
The formal relationship called "spiritual direction" is a spiritual discipline which has been a source of nurture for Christians for centuries. It is a form of soul care which offers an individual the opportunity to meet with another Christian for the purpose of examining his/her relationship with God. Director and directee meet regularly perhaps weekly, fortnightly, monthly or even bi-annually for conversation and prayer. A director is less of an advisor and more of a facilitator who helps the directee pay attention to what God (the true Director) is doing in his or her life.
People benefit most from spiritual direction when they desire a keener sense of God's presence, are moved to discipline a deeper relationship with Him and long for moment by moment connection. It is not necessary to have specific questions or problems in order to seek direction - just a desire for God. In the process God will reveal what is most needed.
Those struggling with mental illness often long for God desperately. A spiritual direction relationship is not likely the best one for them to make as they seek God. We are blessed with Circle Counseling and other resources to help people with those needs Circle Counseling: 267-245-0015,
Our spiritual directors have organized themselves loosely on behalf of the church and as an expression of the church, not as an outside agency. They work in tandem with our pastors, who are assigned general spiritual direction. They supply themselves with mutual supervision and are also accountable to the church leaders.
Spiritual direction groups form as leaders initiate them (or are asked to do so). They arise organically and are not a program of the church.
Circle of Hope Daily Prayer :: WATER
This online resource is a collection of entries designed for those taking lifelong steps in the Spirit. They are offered week by week and in relation to the Christian year by spiritually developed people who have gifts to add to our pilgrimage.
Ways to find a spiritual director
Spiritual directors, with certificates from a program or not, are engaged by individuals as a matter of discernment -- that means you can feel free to ask who you want and see what works out. People who name themselves as directors and are accepted as such by the church may charge for their time or not; you can work that out personally with them. Circle of Hope does not manages the directors' time. Here is our list:
- Caz Tod Pearson -- firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rod White -- email@example.com
Other places to find a director
- Middleton Center (Bryn Mawr)
- Daylesford Abbey (Paoli)
- Spiritual Directors International
- Local Retreat Centers often have spiritual directors attached or in residence. [Our list]
Articles, videos, websites and books
Books on training
- Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction – Margaret Guenther
- The Art of Spiritual Direction: Giving and Receiving Spiritual Guidance -- W. Paul Jones
- Group Spiritual Direction: Community for Discernment -- Rose Mary Dougherty
- Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction -- David Benner
Training to be a director
- Cranaleith Spiritual Direction Program (Northeast Philadelphia)
- Kairos School of Spiritual Formation (Lancaster, PA)
- Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development (Camp Hill, PA)
- Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation (Washington DC)
- Portland Seminary MA in Spiritual Direction (Portland OR)
- Centerquest School of Spiritual Direction (Pasadena CA)
Other articles, videos and books
- A “water group” probably includes silence and “holding space.” Shalem offers a model and a book. There are probably extroverted ways to participate and introverted.
- Spiritual Direction: A Brief Introduction – Dahlia Fraser