Dan Schrock pastors at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship (Goshen, Indiana), teaches spiritual direction at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, works as a wellness specialist for The Corinthian Plan and offers spiritual direction to others.
I have a spiritual director because she doctors my spirit.
Like most people, I have a doctor for my body (a nurse practitioner), a doctor for my eyes (an optometrist) and a doctor for my teeth (a dentist). But because I’m a pastor, I also need a doctor for my spirit — a spiritual director.
The life of a pastor has seemingly endless opportunities to become unwell. Long hours that hollow you out. Congregational conflict that raises your blood pressure. Committees that leave you floundering for a way forward. Budget crises that toss and turn you in the middle of the night. Dysfunctional family situations that suck your energy. People who threaten to leave for that church down the road unless you _____ (fill in the grievance of the month). Pastoring can starve the spirit.
If for some reason I could no longer meet with a spiritual director, I’d hand in my resignation as a pastor. More than anything else, receiving spiritual direction has been the human source of whatever spiritual health I have. That monthly conversation re-centers me in God.
Spiritual direction helps me look for the presence and activity of God in the vicissitudes of church life. It causes me to ask how I am or am not praying, and which spiritual practices nourish me for the work that lies ahead. It helps me remember that unless my life arises from the life of God, I am of no use to the church. I may even cause harm to the church.
Yes, spiritual direction costs money (usually). It’s worth it. Receiving spiritual direction is a primary reason why, after nearly 30 years, I’m still a pastor.
A list of trained Mennonite spiritual directors is available online.