What Is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is what happens when two people, recognizing the presence of Christ in and with them, listen together for God’s voice in their lives. Spiritual direction is founded on the assurance that the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of a believer. As they meet in the Christ’s name, Christ fulfills his promise to be present with them (Matt. 18:30). So they listen together for Christ’s presence, for the Spirit’s working. Most often in spiritual direction one person takes the role of director – of listening, inviting, asking questions – to help the other person, the directee, to grow in awareness of the Spirit of Christ in his or her life. The director may ask questions, the directee may speak of events, people, reactions, and emotions. There will be times of speaking and of silence, but always there is listening, noticing, being attentive. Spiritual direction is different from other one-on-one relationships in some significant ways.
How does spiritual direction work at Calvin Seminary?
Students and spouses of students who are interested in spiritual direction are encouraged to talk with Dean Sajdak as they seek a director. Those who engage a certified and insured spiritual director are eligible for reimbursement of the cost of direction sessions. This program is available to all Calvin Seminary students, as well as spouses of students, in degree or certificate programs.
Questions about Calvin Seminary’s Spiritual Direction Program should be addressed to Dean Sajdak.
What Is a Spiritual Director?
Spiritual directors are somewhat misnamed. The primary job of a spiritual director is not to direct your spiritual life but rather to listen, pose questions, and gently guide conversations. Somewhat similar to a life coach, they serve as a companion for your journey with God.
Most spiritual directors pursue formal training in the form of a certificate or degree from an accredited seminary or university. At Calvin Theological Seminary, our spiritual directors have extensive training to help you on your Christian journey.
Spiritual Direction vs. Counseling
Spiritual direction is helpful in its own right, but it is not a replacement for mental health counseling. It’s important to understand the differences between the two, so you can receive the support you need.
One of the main distinctions between spiritual direction and counseling is the reason why a person is seeking guidance. If a person wants to deepen their relationship with God or seek clarity of purpose, spiritual direction can help. If a person is struggling with stress, anxiety, or depression, then they are better served by pursuing therapy and other mental health resources and may seek a Christian counselor for this purpose.
The goal of spiritual direction is, ultimately, to become more like Christ. Sessions typically occur once a month. On the other hand, the goal of counseling is to become mentally and emotionally healthier. Sessions usually start weekly and may become less frequent as a person’s health improves.
Benefits of Spiritual Direction
Spiritual direction is helpful for all Christians but especially for seminary students, whose lives and studies are directly addressing questions and experiences surrounding their faith. Benefits of spiritual direction include:
Counseling for the formation of the whole person for ministry
Calvin Theological Seminary is glad to provide a variety of counseling opportunities for all of our students and their dependents. These opportunities include individual counseling, marriage counseling, family counseling, group counseling, assertiveness training, and emotional intelligence seminars. All of the counselors maintain the highest standard of confidentiality. They do not report the content of conversations with clients to the seminary. Please contact the Counseling Coordinator, Sarah Chun, to help connect you to the right counselor for you.
Why Counseling for Pastors Is Important
Counseling for pastors—and future pastors, including seminary students—is an incredibly important issue. Recent studies have all reached a similar conclusion: Pastor mental health is in decline. Without proper care and support, the burdens and struggles of ministry can become overwhelming.
Students need to prioritize their health so they can continue to effectively serve others and answer God’s calling on their life. Most understand that this includes their physical health and spiritual health, but too often, mental health gets overlooked. With therapy and other mental health resources, students can experience mental and emotional healing that will give them the strength to serve.
Mental Health Resources for Students
Individual & Marriage Counseling :
Subsidized individual and marriage counseling is available for students and spouses.
Opportunities for group counseling are usually made available in the Fall or Spring. Group counseling sessions are open to eight students at a time.
Assertiveness Training and Emotional Intelligence Seminars:
Assertiveness Training seminars and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) seminars are also offered periodically, normally once every two years.
All of the counselors maintain the highest standard of confidentiality. They do not report the content of conversations with clients to the seminary. While Calvin Seminary offers subsidized counseling services, students with a health care plan that includes a counseling benefit are required to utilize their plan first. Please contact Sarah Chun, Counseling Coordinator, for more information.
More Student Support Resources at Calvin
Student Life Office
Everyday life as a student is multifaceted and the Student Life Office is here to support you throughout your time at Calvin Seminary.
Vocational Formation Office
Our Vocational Formation Office ensures that our students are paired with Christian mentors who can help them in their journey of faith and learning.