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Understanding the Needs of Those Around Us

April 6, 2015

Listening to the needs of those around us is an important aspect of participation in God’s mission.  Throughout the New Testament, Paul uses the language of partnership or participation.  He sees his work within the context of the work God is doing.  He walks alongside those he serves so that he might understand their difficulties, their struggles, and their cultures.  As we listen to and understand the needs of those around us, we begin to discern how God might be at work.

In the fall of 2013, Sioux Falls Seminary launched a Training in Spiritual Direction program.  The two-year, 16 credit hour program provides specialized training to individuals who accompany others on their life journeys—whether sacred or secular.  Class sessions are held on Monday evenings between September and May.  Two cohorts of students (fall 2013 and fall 2014) have joined us on this journey.  But what is spiritual direction?  Why does it matter?  How can we better understand those we walk alongside as we participate in God’s mission?

A few very well-known writers and teachers in the world of spiritual formation have attempted provided a few definitions.  Richard foster, a theologian and author, believes that “spiritual direction involves a process through which one person helps another person understand what God is doing and saying.”

A spiritual director commits to walking alongside an individual to help that individual discover how God might be leading him or her to engage in God’s work.  The spiritual director is called to be an extra ear in the room, one that is attuned to the individual and to the work of the Holy Spirit within that individual.

You might be surprised by where this occurs and how often spiritual directors have opportunities to help “listen people to life” on their spiritual journeys.  Often, conversations with a certified spiritual director will take place in a home or a church.  Other times they may happen in a coffee shop, on a road trip, or even during a long walk.  In fact, conversation may even occur in short snippets over the course of many weeks as two individuals talk over a counter at a bakery.

Participation in the mission of God is not a choice.  Rather, the extent to which we understand our participation and the unique ways in which we have been gifted to serve are the only topics up for discussion.  Spiritual directors can help us deepen our understanding and, therefore, release our unique gifts in powerful ways.

At Sioux Falls Seminary, we are not only committed to participating in the mission of God as a community of believers but also to participating as an institution that develops kingdom-minded servants of God.

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