You’ve learned something about spiritual direction and are curious to try it, but how do you find a spiritual director? (If you want to learn more about direction, check out my earlier posts here.) What types of things are helpful to consider? Who do you talk to? If these are some of your questions, I hope to answer them here.
First, be aware that there are different types of spiritual direction. Very loosely speaking you will likely find those who are “directive” (think teacher or father) in some Catholic and especially Orthodox circles, while the “contemplative” or “evocative” approach is found in Protestant and Catholic communities.
I am trained in the evocative or contemplative approach, thus I will be speaking to those who may be seeking this, although much is applicable to either approach.
Ask God for your director, pray for him or her, and continue the conversation with him about the match as you seek. Your desire to go deeper with God is a gift that he wishes to answer. Trust in God’s provision.
Do you want to meet with a female or male? What age person do you imagine meeting with? Do you want someone within your theological circle, denomination, church, or someone outside it? How much and what kind of training and experience do you expect? Do you want to meet in person or via online platforms like Zoom? Ask yourself, why do I want spiritual direction? This will help you identify your expectations and motivations.
Ask and Seek
Talk with your pastor, priest, or others who lead in the church. Find out if they offer direction, know of anyone who does, and who they recommend. Ask friends. Once you have some names, see if they write, teach, or preach. Listen or read what they say to get a sense of who they are and what she or he believes. You can ask at monasteries and seminaries for recommendations. You can also look at ESDA’s (Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association) listings or SDI’s (Spiritual Directors International) listings. SDI is international and interfaith. On their site you can filter results according to faith tradition, gender, location, etc.
Directors expect initial meetings to see if we are a good match. Be prepared to share about yourself and ask some questions. Peter White offers a list of questions to get you started. Evaluate during and after your meeting: Do you feel that this is someone who has potential for honest dialog with you? Did you feel understood and safe? If you feel the personality or style doesn’t work for you, then keep looking. You need to be comfortable with him or her. Did the director demonstrate these qualities: trustworthiness, great listening skills, patience, prudence, practicality, honesty, humility, and hospitality?
Be patient and committed
Sometimes it takes a while to find a director who fits well. Once you do, expect that you will encounter things that stretch you from your comfort zones as you follow God. Stick with it. Always be free to bring up difficulties you are having with your director or about direction to him or her. However, if you ever feel threatened or used by your director, do not remain with him or her.
A note on expectations: many expect directors to tell them what to do, to be the initiator for change, because most of our church life has been within a model of hierarchical authority. We expect the church, the pastor, the worship team—and thus the director—to feed us. But in direction, you are the one saying yes to your desires to know God better, to grow in Christlikeness, to live fully and be in charge of your life. The director does not want to take this from you, quite the opposite, she or he wants to help you live into the self that God has given you.
May you know the presence of God as he guides you in your search,