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Congregation-Based Spiritual Direction Reading List

Session One

Required Readings

Short Term Spiritual Guidance, by Duane R. Bidwell

Duane Bidwell mixes stories and theory together in this engaging book on the foundations of Spiritual Direction. He is helping practitioners discover the boundaries between short-term spiritual direction and psychotherapy. He provides ways for pastors and laypeople to engage in Spiritual Direction that honors the person, recognizes the context, and offers specific interventions.

Spiritual Direction 101, by Teresa Blythe


A series of blog posts for, this short introduction to spiritual direction presents the basics of the practice. Blythe writes from a broadly Christian perspective with some consideration for spiritual direction from other traditions. A straightforward overview for the general population.

Select one (or more) from this list:

The Pastor as Spiritual Guide, by Howard Rice.

Howard Rice frames the work of the pastor in a new metaphor that renews both pastors and those they serve. The pastor as spiritual guide is one who finds his or her core identity in helping persons find meaning in life through a transforming relationship with God. From the perspective of spiritual guidance, the primary skill brought to the work of pastoral ministry is one’s own faith and willingness to share one’s journey with others who are seeking.

The Art of Spiritual Direction, by W. Paul Jones

Jones, formerly a Methodist theologian, now a Trappist monk and Catholic priest, draws on both the Wesleyan and Catholic traditions. He offers a broad history of spiritual direction, outlines what happens in the practice and suggests how to choose a spiritual director. Included are helpful appendices on spirituality and the Myers Briggs Type Inventory, the enneagram and family systems theory, and other topics.

Holy Listening, by Margaret Guenther

Beautifully and simply written, Holy Listening uses the theme of hospitality and the images of a teacher and midwife to the soul to describe the role of spiritual directors. She concludes with a chapter on women and spiritual direction.

The Practice of Spiritual Direction, by William A. Barry and William J. Connolly

Two priests draw on insights from modern psychotherapy, focusing on religious experience, not knowledge, as the locus of spiritual direction. They include chapters on what can go wrong in the director-directee relationship and on the importance of supervision for directors.

Spiritual Director, Spiritual Companion: Guide to Tending the Soul, by Tilden Edwards

Edwards’s two-part book provides both historical perspective on the resources of spiritual direction and more practical advice about how to find a spiritual friend and to form spiritual direction groups.

Abba, Give Me a Word, by L. Roger Owens

As a young Methodist pastor, Owens had the good fortune of finding Larry, a retired Baptist pastor, who became his spiritual director. What sets this book apart from a good number of other books on the subject is its focus on how to receive spiritual direction. Making a home in the house that is God’s love is a motif running throughout the book. Owens uses the Desert Fathers and Mothers as touchstones and organizes the process of receiving spiritual direction around a series of gerunds—longing, finding, re­leasing, offering, trusting and attending. People not involved in spiritual direction can benefit from his stories and reflections, although the book may also entice them to seek out a spiritual director.

Tending the Holy, Spiritual Direction Across Traditions, Norvene Vest

God is mystery and every form of religion is an effort to respond faithfully to the mystery of God by whatever name. The Divine breaks through into human experience in many ways, and humans respond variously to the awesome experience of God.” And those various responses are what the contributors to Tending the Holy document. In this provocative and cutting-edge collection readers are given the opportunity to see what spiritual direction looks like–and what questions are asked–through a variety of lenses. From an examination of the spiritual direction relationship in the Evangelical Christian tradition, to Buddhism and Hindu ones, to the better-known ones of the Benedictines, Carmelites, and Ignatians, and finally, to the contemporary lenses of feminism, Generation X, the institutional perspective, and even one based on the natural world and the spirituality of St. Francis, this collection explores unexplored territory.

Recommended Readings

Faithful Generations: Effective Ministry Across Generational Lines, by John R. Mabry

This book provides a perspective into the generational differences that shape contemporary spirituality. He explores the worldviews that shape the beliefs, practices and spirituality of different generations. It is important if you work with many generations. He examines both the points of potential conflict and congruence across generations. He explores generational perceptions, gifts, prayer, images of the divine, the growth continuum and how to minister to each generation.

Quest for Spiritual Community: Reclaiming Spiritual Guidance for Contemporary Congregations, by Angela Reed

Angela Reed believes leading spiritual growth is pastoral leaders work in congregations. She draws on history, particularly the Protestant history of Spiritual Direction, Scripture and research to demonstrate how guidance can be practiced in everyday congregational life. A Practical Theology and filled with useful strategies and concrete examples.

Session Two

Required Readings

Group Spiritual Direction: Community for Discernment, by Rose Mary Dougherty

Dougherty’s book is an amazing tool for both individual and community spiritual growth. She articulates clearly the power of a group gathered to lean into God’s invitation in each person’s life. She continually brings the reader back to the mystery of God in the room through practical examples and applications. She also explores the boundaries of group dynamics and potential pitfalls. This is an engaging and practical book for all Spiritual Directors.

An Open Place: The Ministry of Group Spiritual Direction, by Marlene Kropf, & Daniel Schrock

Kropf and Schrock are both long time Spiritual Directors who sensed some new creativity in their one to one practice. They engaged in an experiment to bring Spiritual Direction into the group setting. This book follows their journey. We learn from their insights and even some mistakes along the way. It is a wonderful and practical book for anyone wishing to start a group spiritual direction process.

Recommended Readings

Seeking God Together: An introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, by Alice Fryling

This is a great basic handbook on Group Spiritual Direction. Alice Fryling offers several practical tips on formats, space, questions to guide facilitators, and how to embrace the silence. It is obvious that one is learning from years of experience by exploring what works and what doesn’t work in Group Spiritual Direction.

Uncovering Your Church’s Hidden Spirit, by Celia Allison Hahn

Celia Hahn creates a model for congregational/corporate discernment. Her book is illustrated with case studies with congregations engaged in discernment. She has practical research, and templates for interviews, interviewing and an evaluation plan. Her method of identifying lay leadership with gifts for spiritual leadership is useful in both small groups and corporate discernment.

Hospitality: The Heart of Spiritual Direction, by Leslie A. Hay

Leslie Hay imagines Spiritual direction as Radical Hospitality in the Benedictine tradition. Sharing her own story and formation as a spiritual director, she includes the Rule of St. Benedict, models of hospitality, and the challenges of practice. Each chapter ends with meditations and reflection questions. This would be a useful book to read with your small group leaders and your peer groups.

Session Three

Required Readings

A Quiet Pentecost: Inviting the Spirit into Congregational Life, by Dwight Judy

By recounting the stories of more than 40 congregations being transformed by spiritual practices, Judy demonstrates how a spiritual formation focus can transform religious communities. A wonderful resource for churches and individuals interested in reenergizing their spiritual life. Perfect for laypersons or clergy who want guidance in establishing or expanding their spiritual formation ministries


Kindling Desire for God: Preaching as Spiritual Direction, by Kay L. Northcutt

An invitation to bring spiritual direction into the heart of congregational life through preaching. After outlining a variety of homiletic models that held sway in the past century, Northcutt suggests that spiritual formation could serve as the basis for a 21st century homelitcs.


When Leadership and Spiritual Direction Meet, by Gil W. Stafford

This is a book about church leadership that is not based on a business model, but on a model of spiritual direction. Gil Stafford is an Episcopal Priest and a college Chaplain. He speaks across the generations The spiritual leader is the Steward of Sacred Safety, the Holy Listener, the Advocate of Silence and the Wisdom Teacher through story.

Recommended Readings

Looking Into the Well: Supervision of Spiritual Directors, by Maureen Conroy

Conroy has the most detailed book on supervision integrating theory and practice. She uses case studies to illustrate supervision as a learning experience. Her breath and depth of experience teaching supervision extends to second half of her text  which is learning experiences in supervision. As a supervisor and a spiritual director it presents useful models to evaluate and assess supervision, spiritual direction and program elements. A very useful resource full of learning experiences for spiritual directors, supervisors and training teams.

Discerning God’s Will Together, by Danny E Morris & Charles M. Olsen (revised and updated edition)

This is a book useful for people who want to integrate a contemplative process into their organization/congregational system. It is useful for the education of staff, board members  and committees to introduce and experience  the process of discernment. In todays spiritual communities it is the way to begin.

Embodied Spirits, Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, edited by Sherry Bryant-Jones, Rosalie Norman-McNaney, & Therese Tayor-Stinson

This is a collection of essays written by spiritual directors of color, primarily African American. In a culturally diverse world, this is necessary reading. It will give greater awareness and understanding of lived experiences and perspectives of people of color in spiritual direction.

Awakening the Creative Spirit; Bringing the Arts to Spiritual Direction, by Christine V. Paintner & Betsey Beckman

This book is designed to help spiritual directors and others use expressive arts in the context of spiritual direction. Full of examples for using different art modalities including storytelling; contemplation and imagination; the dance of embodiment; visual art expression; music, voice, and rhythm; and poetry writing.


Session One—Myers-Brigg Type inventory (MBTI)

Session Two—Enneagram

Session Three—Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)

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