Leaders at Seattle Mennonite Church (Washington) recently introduced group spiritual direction to their congregation. In response to their introduction, three groups have begun meeting. The group leaders, Amy Epp, Melanie Neufeld, and Pat Shaver, are sharing their introductory handout for others who may want to explore this tool for ongoing spiritual formation.
Led by trained leaders, spiritual direction groups often meet monthly to provide space for listening to God, praying scripture together, and practicing spiritual discernment. A resource for beginning such a ministry is An Open Place: The Ministry of Group Spiritual Direction, co-edited by two Mennonite spiritual directors, Marlene Kropf and Daniel Schrock (Morehouse Publishing, 2012).
Spiritual Listening Groups at Seattle Mennonite
A way to explore your spiritual path with other people wanting to do the same
Spiritual listening groups (also known as spiritual direction groups) are small groups in which we pay attention to what is happening in our lives and look for ways God is at work. The group listens to God on behalf of each other, helping each other watch and listen for God’s activity in our lives, so that God can summon us into the insights, emotions, movements, courage and maturity that God desires.
Participants do not take responsibility for each other, try to solve each others’ problems, or determine a specific outcome. Rather, they wait in shared silence, praying for and with each other, listening and responding to each others’ stories, and trusting the Holy Spirit to call, convict, and transform.
Each meeting will include an opening spiritual practice of lectio divina — because the kind of careful attentive listening it evokes is the same type of listening required in group spiritual direction. Paying attention to patterns and movements, as well as interior nudges, images or questions is the foundation for noticing and responding to God’s call and action in our lives.
A member of the group will then talk about something in her or his life with God — an event, experience, growing awareness, relationship, hunch, yearning, experience of prayer, etc.
After a few minutes of silence, the other three members of the group, along with the leader, offer the person their noticings, intuitions, or wondering questions, to direct the person’s attention to an event, emotion or situation that may hold clues about where God is speaking or leading that person. Then the person responds briefly to what he or she has heard from the group.
After this presentation is completed, another person takes a turn and the process is repeated. This allows 2 of the 4 members to receive spiritual direction at each monthly meeting.
The group consists of 4 people plus the leader, who pays attention to the process and keeps the group focused on its purpose.
Gifts of group spiritual direction
- We each notice different things, so our sharing is enriched by the reflections and responses of the group.
- We learn from hearing about each others’ journeys.
- It is a place of support and being known, providing the kind of intimacy that we long for at church, but rarely find.
- Commitment to an honest relationship with God and other members
- A 9 month commitment (once a month) with regular, consistent attendance
- Prompt beginnings and endings
Interested or Curious?