Spiritual Direction, Ministry Mentorship & Student Counseling Services

Calvin Theological Seminary offers a variety of student support services, including spiritual direction, ministry mentorship, and mental health counseling. Each of these resources can help students as they grow in their knowledge of God, of themselves, and of the call on their life.

Spiritual Direction, Ministry Mentorship & Student Counseling Services

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Spiritual Direction

What Is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is a relational approach to spiritual reflection, discernment, and discovery. Under the guidance of a spiritual director, you will be invited to reflect on your spiritual journey, deepen your relationship with God, and express your desires and doubts.

Spiritual direction is an open embrace of what is sacred. It is a prayerful invitation to quiet oneself and listen to the voice of God in one’s life. A session of spiritual direction relies on the safety and sanctity of the space created between two people who are turned toward each other and toward God.

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:

  • Deeper sense of meaning
  • Greater self-awareness
  • Increased sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s presence
  • Exploration of big questions in a safe environment
  • Having someone to process spiritual experiences with
  • Greater sense of sacredness in everyday life
  • Regular opportunities to pray
  • Increased clarity
  • Proactive approach to faith and identity
  • Increased ability to be grounded in Christ and fully present for yourself and others
  • Expressing your thoughts and feelings without fear or judgment
  • Formation in Christ
  • Deepening of one’s relationship with God and others

Student Counseling Services

What Is Student Mental Health Counseling?

Calvin Theological Seminary offers mental health services for students who may be struggling with past or present trauma, distress, or mental illness. The goal of therapy is to improve mental and emotional health as well as the mind-body connection.

Counseling is a research-driven approach to improving mental and emotional health outcomes. Just like a doctor knows how to heal a physical injury or manage a chronic illness, a therapist knows how to promote healing from a mental or emotional trauma, or to help you manage mental illness. Accessing mental health services is not something to be avoided or ashamed of—it’s a form of healing and support that many people benefit from, just like they benefit from going to the doctor or the dentist.

Biblical Counseling vs. Mental Health Counseling

Biblical counseling is a form of discernment based exclusively on the framework and worldview of the Bible. Many pastors and church leaders offer biblical counseling to their congregants, helping them see the way that the truths of the Bible apply to their current life situations.

Mental health counseling, on the other hand, is a research-driven form of talk therapy that is the best tool for helping people who want to improve emotional and mental wellness. These people may or may not be struggling with mental health disorders, and past or present trauma. People seek mental health counseling from trained psychotherapists and psychiatrists, who may incorporate reading the Bible and other spiritual practices if they are Christians. 

It’s important to note that biblical counseling and mental health counseling are not inherently at odds with one another, just like biblical counseling and receiving treatment for a physical illness aren’t at odds with each other. Rather, they are two different ways of seeking insight into life’s struggles.

For example, a person who recently lost a parent may seek biblical counseling from their pastor and be comforted by the many stories of loss in the Bible or by grief-stricken Psalms or Lamentations. They may also start attending professional therapy once a week to work through their loss with a trained mental health professional, helping them manage clinical depression that was retriggered by the loss of their parent.

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. 

Pastors and other church leaders 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, pastors can experience mental and emotional healing that will give them the strength to serve.

Mental Health Resources for Seminarians

Calvin Theological Seminary offers a variety of mental health resources for our seminary students. More information for students and their families is available through Populi.

Ministry Mentorship

What Does Christian Mentoring Look Like at Calvin?

Classroom education is vital in the pursuit of any career, but connecting with someone who has experience in your field provides the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom. Ministry mentorship at Calvin Theological Seminary connects seminary students with a mentor in their field who can share their experiences and offer support as a coach.

Benefits of Mentoring for Seminary Students

There are many benefits to receiving Christian mentorship from a ministry professional, including:

  • The ability to learn from a seasoned professional
  • Exposure to experiences that may be difficult to recreate in a classroom environment
  • An opportunity to reflect on one’s vocation and cultural context
  • Gaining encouragement and support from someone who truly understands the demands of the job
  • Accountability and challenges from someone with theological and experiential wisdom

More Student Support Resources at Calvin

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.

Idema Food Pantry & Clothes Closet

Calvin Theological Seminary ensures our students have enough to eat and wear through the Idema Food Pantry & Clothes Closet. Find out if you are eligible.

Find Support at Calvin Theological Seminary

Calvin Theological Seminary is eager to support our student body in whatever ways we can. Current students can log into Populi to access all available resources. If you’re not a student at Calvin but would like to learn more about our various forms of student support, contact us today.