What is Spiritual Direction and is it Different from Pastoral Ministry? By Guest Blogger, Dr. Brenda Buckwell


A spiritual director is a mid wife, a listening companion who assists the other in birthing new possibility and/or new perspective and/or new understanding and awareness of God. Yes, I do believe pastors have the potential to be spiritual directors. Spiritual directors use a listening technique of "three-way-listening" each person listening to the other while at the same time both are listening to God. Spiritual direction is a distinct ministry of active listening for God's gentle interior quickening of heart and spirit - and helping the other articulate how God is present in the midst of life.

However in my experience the role of pastor is much broader than spiritual director. Administration, visioning, strategic planning, teaching, preaching.... yes the pastor role can and often does provide spiritual direction techniques - but rarely does a pastor provide spiritual direction - either one on one or in small group - for parishioners in the historic sense of spiritual direction.

Spiritual Formation on the other hand is the overarching umbrella which covers many types of ministry: pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, coaching, preaching, teaching ...all ministries to assist folks in noticing how God's Holy Spirit power and energy are shaping individual and community from the inside of our beings to influence our expressed outward actions and words. Often spiritual formation is spoken of as it relates to spiritual disciplines and prayer practices which assist folks in becoming even more aware of God's presence in the midst of everyday life.


Rev. Dr. Brenda K. Buckwell, Obl. OSB, seeks to integrate Christian spiritual formation into everyday life so that others can experience an expanded sense of
God. She is adjunct faculty at Ashland Theological Seminary, a spiritual director for lay and clergy persons, a national retreat leader and cofounder and director of learning and formation for Hearts on Fire: The Fellowship of United Methodist Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders, as well as an oblate in the Methodist-Benedictine St. Brigid of Kildare Monastery. She has taught at United Theological Seminary and the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation through Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  She is also founder of "Living Streams ~ Flowing Water, LLC" a spiritual formation ministry through which she teaches spiritual formation and prayer online and onsite and further provides spiritual direction, coaching, retreat leadership and congregational consultation.

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