Get Your Spiritual Direction Certification at Scarritt Bennett Center

By Jackie L. Halstead

Scarritt Bennett Center is offering training in the ministry of spiritual direction. It is a fifteen-month program that involves reading, two residencies on campus, supervision of direction, and writing.

The spiritual direction program is founded on contemplative traditions and directed by Randy Harris and myself. We refer to it as a non-guru program as we believe the true spiritual director is God. Our role is to help people attend to God in their life. We began this program six years ago and it has moved with me from my previous position as Director of the Institute for Christian Spirituality at Lipscomb University. We are at present in the middle of training our sixth cohort, a wonderful mix of clergy and laity. They are each at present working with two directees under the oversight of a supervisor.

Applications come in all year, but the program begins each year in May. At that time, the cohort has been selected and the participants begin their reading. The books included authors to assist on the personal contemplative journey; such as Richard Rohr, Marjorie Thomas, and Thomas Kelly. They also read three books on spiritual direction by Gerald May, Tilden Edwards, and Margaret Guenther. In the month before our first residency, the participants begin to introduce themselves via email and share their rationale for being drawn to the ministry of spiritual direction.

The first residency is the last week in July and is comprised of two components. The first and most significant component is grounding in their own spiritual journey. It is not necessary to attain perfection in one’s spiritual life in order to direct others, but it is important to be willing to continually attend to one’s own journey. This involves teaching, practices of prayer, and about eighteen hours of silence in the middle of the retreat—a time to lean back into God’s loving embrace.

The second component is of a more practical nature. This is a focus on logistics. How does one “do” spiritual direction? We have conversations on attentive listening, gender issues, ethical issues, and creating space. The participants also practice with each other in groups of four or five in order to allow the opportunity for feedback from their mentor and peers.

They are then sent back to their homes all over the country to work with two directees. They send back an audio of one session for feedback and have monthly supervision with their mentor. They also read books on spiritual direction of other Christian traditions—Celtic, Ignatius, and Orthodox—and additional books by Nouwen, Merton, and others to again address their own spiritual development.

Following this year of directing others, they come back for the final residency during the first week of July for more contemplative deepening and logistics of the ministry. The questions and understanding are more in-depth after a year of offering direction. Then comes the difficult good-bye. The cohort has found a home with each other.

This program is a delight to direct. We invite only those who exhibit the charism of spiritual direction. In other words, others seek them out to walk alongside them in their spiritual journey. This charism is a gift from God and we help individuals be more intentional with that gift. Thus, the community that is formed with each cohort is rich with spiritual depth and insight. They find it to be a place of kindred spirits, soul friends who care deeply about the things of God. Conversation is rich and rare for people who often find few in their contexts who are of like mind and heart.

If you are one of these individuals who has been given the charism of spiritual direction, call or come by for a visit. You can apply for the program at I’d love to talk with you about the possibility of entering into our program. There is no greater honor than walking alongside others on their spiritual journey.

Jackie L. Halstead is the Director of Education, Programming and Connections at Scarritt Bennett Center. She holds certificates from two programs with the Shalem Institute–Spiritual Guidance and Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats and is a member of the Lay Cistercians of Gethsemani Abbey. Jackie has a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy and specializes in working with clergy and their families.