Where I’m Coming From, Part 3

Parts one and two of “Where I’m Coming From” are about how I turned to John Roberto’s Faith Formation 2020 to find some strategies for dealing with the changing religious landscape in the 21st century.

Two of the sixteen strategies Roberto offered caught my attention. I had the feeling that if congregations focused on bringing new life to these strategies, they might just change how both regularly attending friends and members as well as the spiritual but religious and nones see church.

Here are those two strategies along with Roberto’s ideas of how the might be implemented:

Transforming the World: Engagement in and Formation for Service and Mission

  • Service and mission projects for all ages
  • © Raywoo | Dreamstime.com - New Life Word PhotoEducation and reflection with service and mission projects
  • Service with the wider community
  • Study-action small groups

Spiritual Formation

  • Formation in spiritual practices and disciplines
  • Church-wide program for spiritual formation
  • Spiritual formation infused in all faith formation programming
  • Contemplative approach to faith formation
  • Spiritual guides or mentors
  • Spiritual formation for the wider community

Folded into the above strategy is this one, too, which applies specifically to the spiritual but not religious and the nones:

Faith Formation for Spiritual Seekers

  • Spiritual formation process for spiritual seekers
  • New expressions of [religious] community for spiritual seekers

I could imagine how these all might work together, but I couldn’t think of a way to get congregations started on the process. The best I could do is tell people that the future of the church depended on meeting people’s spiritual needs and becoming indispensable to their communities.

Once again, Sue Sinnamon saved the day.

In January of 2012 she shared with me an article in the Christian Century called Holy listening: The Spiritual Direction Movement. The article states that

Over the past two decades, the practice of spiritual direction has become an increasingly regular part of mainline Protestant spirituality.

“That’s it!” I realized. Spiritual direction is at the heart of meeting people’s spiritual needs. It should not only be a “regular part” of our spirituality. It should be the center of it.

What’s more, spiritual direction connects the two strategies.

Angela Reed, author of Quest for Spiritual Community: Reclaiming Spiritual Guidance for Contemporary Congregations, puts it this way:

Attending to personal spiritual growth often evolves naturally towards a desire to participate in something missional; a ministry beyond the self and even the local community.

For me, spiritual direction connects the within with the among of the Beloved Community.

The end result of this journey has been the creation of the Clergy Seminar Series in Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction that Sue and I co-facilitate. Its goal is to help clergy get up to speed in spiritual direction so they can bring a spiritual formation focus to their congregations.

We feel these seminars have arrived on the scene just in time. Consider this proposed core competency from the UUA’s Ministerial Fellowship Committee’s Competencies Review released in December 2014. A competent minister is one who “Encourages Spiritual Development for Self and Others,” someone who

  • Models spiritual depth or offers spiritual direction
  • Leads curricula, workshops, or retreats for congregants, clients, or organization members
  • Promotes increased depth of spirit in others and the organization
  • Promotes spiritual development for children, youth, and adults through religious education

Helping clergy and other religious professionals develop these competencies is exactly what the Clergy Seminar Series in Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction is all about.


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