A spiritual director is one who helps another to recognize and to follow the inspirations of grace in his life, in order to arrive at the end to which God is leading him.

—Thomas Merton

What is spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is a key discipline for pastors and Christian leaders because it offers a safe place for attending to one's ongoing process of transformation and surrender to God outside the public view and without any other agenda. As Thomas Merton says, "The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a man's life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which he presents to the world, and to bring out his inner spiritual freedom, his inmost truth, which is what we call the likeness of Christ in his soul" (Spiritual Direction and Meditation).

The phrase "spiritual direction" is a misnomer in a way, because it is not so much about being directive as it is about being open, receptive, aware of and responsive to the movement of the Spirit in the directee's life. It is understood that the Holy Spirit is the true director, Advocate, or Counselor given to lead us into truth as we are able to bear it (John 15, 16). The director is present to assist the directee in paying attention to the invitations of the Holy Spirit and to support the directee in making a faithful response.

We are not human beings trying to become spiritual; we are spiritual beings trying to become human.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

What should I look for in a spiritual director?

An effective spiritual director is someone who is:

  • Experienced in the ways of the soul due, in part, to the faithful attention they have given to their own spiritual journey
  • Gifted and practiced in discernment and listening to the Spirit
  • Called and committed to cultivating a life of listening and spiritual accompaniment
  • Experienced in a variety of spiritual disciplines that open us to God
  • Able to maintain a prayerful, contemplative stance as they are accompanying others
  • Trained through a recognized training program
  • In spiritual direction himself/herself and is also in ongoing supervision

How does spiritual direction differ from other spiritual relationships?

Spiritual direction is not the same thing as mentoring or disciple-ing in that these relationships usually focus more on moral, educational and vocational guidance in a particular faith tradition. Although there will be dimensions of spiritual direction in these relationships, a true spiritual director is someone who can listen and provide spiritual guidance beyond any personal need to defend or uphold any particular tradition or religious institution. It is also not the same thing as spiritual friendship in that spiritual friendship is usually a peer relationship that includes some level of mutuality. Spiritual direction, on the other hand, is "one-way" in that the director is there solely to attend to the directee and does not look to that relationship in order to have any of their personal needs met. There is a willingness on the part of the directee to submit to the guidance of the director because of the inner authority they possess, not positional authority bestowed within organizational or religious hierarchies.

You can read more about a leader's need for spiritual direction here:

Spiritual Direction (Part 1): A Vital Practice for Discerning Leaders

Spiritual Direction (Part 2): A Space for Rigorous Honesty

What does it cost?

Typically, fees for spiritual direction are determined on a case-by-case basis between the director and the directee.

Does the Transforming Center offer spiritual direction or recommend spiritual directors?

The Transforming Center is passionate about the spiritual direction needs of pastors and Christian leaders. Currently we offer:

Individual Spiritual Direction

The Transforming Center is pleased to offer a listing of spiritual directors who:

  • have completed our two-year Transforming Community® experience
  • have also completed a recognized training program in spiritual direction
  • have at least two years of experience
  • ascribe to the ethical guidelines put forth by Spiritual Directors International
Spiritual Direction and Discernment for Leadership Groups

Ruth Haley Barton and others are available to serve as a spiritual director for leadership groups to guide a corporate discernment process as they seek to discern God's will regarding specific decisions.

For more information or to book a consultation, email info@transformingcenter.org.