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Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction

11th August 2012 Christian Books 12 Comments

The Spirit is speaking. Can you hear him? If you’re longing to become more attentive to God–to listen to him, know his voice and experience his love, spiritual direction can point the way. In Seeking God Together, experienced spiritual director Alice Fryling offers a unique introduction specifically for group spiritual direction: a place where individuals can experience what it means to be listened to and loved by others, so that they can learn to listen more attentively to God in their daily lives and be used by God. Out of her years of being both director and directee, Fryling offers practical, step-by-step guidance for those who would like to start, lead or participate in group spiritual direction. Her book will help you know what to expect and fully equip you for the different aspects of the group experience, including learning to listen to God, using Scripture in a group, navigating different personalities, setting group expectations and asking life-giving questions. She also provides an appendix with opening exercises for use in your meetings together. “The intentional goal of group spiritual direction,” Alice writes, “is to help each participant become more aware of God in their lives, for the sake of others. Spiritual direction leads you to an awakening of the soul.” The Spirit is speaking to you and to others. Here is a book to help you and a group of soul friends listen for and with each other as you seek God together.

A good book for anyone interested in starting a small group and offers several excellent ideas, including formats and questions, to facilitate the process.

“This is the best account of group direction in print.”

“Best basic handbook on group spiritual direction I have seen. I plan to recommend it to the leaders of our Mentoring Community.”

Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction

The Practice of Spiritual Direction

William A. Barry, S.J., & William J. Connolly, S.J., were two of the six co-founders of the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1971. The center was one of the first to offer year-long specialized training in spiritual direction. Both authors now reside at Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts.

The Classic Work on Helping People Become Closer to God

Fathers Barry and Connolly see the work of spiritual direction as helping people to develop their relationship with God. In thinking and practice they have absorbed the insights of modern psychotherapy, but have not been absorbed by them. This highly practical book reflects the authors’ experience at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where spiritual direction is available and where directors are trained.

The Practice of Spiritual Direction

  • 12 responses to "Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction"

  • trader_x
    4:25 on August 11th, 2012
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    This is a great resource for Evangelicals wanting to introduce group spiritual direction to their church or circle of friends. It’s an introductions, so doesn’t go into extensive detail regarding how, for example, to actually structure such a ministry in the local church. But it provides a great launching point for getting started. It would also be a great resource to refer people to who are unfamiliar with individual or group spiritual direction.

  • Vikki Scovell
    9:32 on August 11th, 2012
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    This is an excellent book for those wishing to further the concept, practice, and methods of Spiritual Direction. We all have inner wisdom. Group Spiritual Direction is an enriching way of sharing that wisdom at a really deep level of caring and support.

  • Monarky
    12:49 on August 11th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    E.G. Melillo voiced a concern about the response given concerning a married woman who was having a relationship with a divorced man. I understand E.G. Melillo’s concern, however, I interpreted the author’s words in a different way.

    The authors didn’t seem to be saying that the relationship was appropriate in any way. They seemed to be talking about how we “approach” a directee which can affect the listening relationship and working alliance. On page 143, the authors say, “In the first place, the directee usually knows that there is a discrepancy…God has an interest in the quality of the directee’s life and that behavior that is seriously inconsistent with God’s desires will lead to disturbances in the relationship with him…(Then) the director, whose working agreement has been to help her with prayer, can now begin to probe more deeply into the causes of the disturbance and thus help the directee.” If the director strongly points out the “sin” in her actions right away, the directee is likely to tune her out. The authors are encouraging a director to be patient and maintain a relationship with the woman and then the director will be able to help “her” discover this discrepancy for herself. Allowing someone to hear God for themselves is always better than trying to be God for them. We can easily get in the way and interfere with the Spirit’s action if we try to jump on a subject before the directee is ready to hear.

    I found the book to be good, basic knowledge. It doesn’t wander from the main thing, which is a clear understanding and knowledge of spiritual direction. They state over and over again that the motivation for spiritual direction has to be the desire to grow in relationship with the Lord.

  • Bandina Harris
    16:03 on August 11th, 2012
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    Very practical and helpful guide to spiritual direction. When one wants to know how to deal with directees’ difficulties, this book provides answers across many aspects on opening them to God. For spiritual directors, this book gives many leads on how to reflect on one’s spiritual direction.

  • Steve H
    22:22 on August 11th, 2012
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    A very practical book which lays an excellent foundation for the practice of a form of spiritual direction that is entirely focused on helping people develop a growing, intimate relationship with a loving God. It helps spiritual directors facilitate, not dominate, the process. This book is very lucidly written and full of wisdom born of long, prayerful and practical experience. This book is must reading for anyone who is considering, or who is fulfilling, a vocation in this form of ministry. It’s the kind of book I would want to read over again periodically to let it sink in.

  • Assunta Waage
    3:38 on August 12th, 2012
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    I found this book written simply and very practical in the advice given to those guiding others in the spiritual journey. This book does not delve into the realm of theory but remains very concrete which is what I needed when I found myself too busy to read long explanations. Starting from everyday experience, the author concentrates on relationships and building up those relationships. He gives us criteria for evaluating our religious experiences while keeping our balance. A great approach and very helpful. thank you.

  • Jo Desrocher
    6:10 on August 12th, 2012
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    I am currently in a two year process of training in spiritual direction and have been reading numerous introductions to the subject. I found this one easily the most useful of the lot. It is well organized, especially in its analysis of the opportunities and hazards of the relationship with the directee as it develops. Part of the book’s strength is that it is based on the experiences of the authors in running a center devoted to direction and training directors, not on one individual’s view of the topic. I suspect that some of the writing is more sophisticated and nuanced than I can yet appreciate, so the book will bear rereading at a later stage. I especially enjoyed this quotation in the Conclusion – “As the dialogue and exploration [of the nature of spiritual direction today] continue, both pastoral care and theological reflection can benefit. The divorce of theology from religious experience has begun to be healed, and spiritual directors who are alive to theological issues and regularly in contact the religious experience of Christians will contribute to further healing.”

  • Marry Weigle
    9:49 on August 12th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I’m in the process of reading this book but thus far have found it to be just what I needed. I am working with my pastor on spiritual direction so this has been a wonderful adjunct to our conversations and the work I am doing.

  • chicgeek
    17:03 on August 12th, 2012
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    By spiritual direction here is meant that central and often avoided part of pastoral counseling that deals not so much with people’s many problems and struggles as with their experience of and personal relationship to God. It is a specialized and all important area that is easy to side step in normal counseling because of the relative ease with which other problems can be addressed and/or because of an inbuilt fear on everyone’s part of a relationship with the almighty. This eminently practical book points out in great detail the paths by which one may help another to foster this all-important relationship which is more basic and prior to resolving other symptomatic difficulties in the individual’s life. It describes as well the distractions, pitfalls, avoidances and other problems that beset director and directee along the way. This is probably the best text available in this area. Its strength comes from the massive experience of the authors in doing, teaching, and supervising spiritual direction, in their theological, spiritual and psychotherapeutic background, and in their ability to organize and present the material clearly and cogently. It is a must in the library of any spiritual director, could profitably be read by anyone seeking direction, and is well worth frequent rereading.

  • Steve Kovach
    3:25 on August 13th, 2012
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    For some time now I have been searching for a book on the topic of spiritual direction that is comprehensive enough to serve as a base model for ministry. I’ve searched through many volumes. I recently stumbled upon this book in the library of a retreat center. This is a must have! The authors serve the reader a balanced diet of spirituality and healthy counseling practices. The chapters are comprehensive. Here is a great starter text on the subject.

  • Ted Bundy
    8:17 on August 13th, 2012
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    I liked this book a lot.

    Over the past couple years I’ve read well over a dozen books on the subject of spiritual direction and I feel very confident with saying this is one of the most humble and clearly written that I have read to date. Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction (authored by Alice Fryling) is more than an introduction and is about more than group spiritual direction. This is good for the reader and good for the community seeking to learn more about spiritual direction.

    A few things that I found exceptionally helpful in Seeking God Together are the congenial writing style of Alice Fryling and the language she uses to teach about spiritual direction. I have noticed how difficult that it is for me to talk about spiritual direction with persons who have limited or no experience with the concept and that is why I am so appreciative of the efforts by Fryling in this book. I have been provided a language to introduce spiritual direction to my friends, family, and acquaintances that have been previously unexposed to this wonderful and life-giving relationship.

    While the book specifically introduces “group” spiritual direction, it is not limited in scope to this one example. I think the foundation of the book is very helpful in presenting the concept of individual spiritual as well as introducing tools to get spiritual conversations started outside of the group environ.

    With patience and gentleness Alice Fryling introduces the concept of listening as the foremost tool for the ministry of spiritual direction. She helps the reader-director to identify and formulate “life-giving” questions that help to explore thoughts and feelings deep in the soul of the directee. As the thoughts, feelings, and ideas are drawn out of the directee, Fryling teaches the “group” and director that the primary purpose of spiritual direction is “to help others notice God in the most ordinary life circumstances, and provide an environment where spiritual healing can take place” (pg 20). Another important point she reminds her reading audience is “The purpose of (spiritual direction) is not counseling or therapy. Nor is it intended to be a place where we can engage in aimless, self-absorbed conversations. The purpose of spiritual direction (individual or groups) is formation. Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”

    While I found the entire book extremely edifying, I particularly enjoyed chapters seven through nine (Meditating on Scripture Together; Sin, Conviction, and Confession; and Sharing the Journey of Prayer). A couple of my favorite quotes follow:

    “The experience of letting go, I have found, is not something for the faint-hearted in prayer. It is not something we learn once and then live out of ever-after. It is, rather, the syntax of our ongoing spiritual journey. Over and over again we remember that God invites us to let go. Jesus, the God of the universe, is in our boat. (Remember the story in Mark 4:35-41). When we pray, sometimes God invites us to pull in the oars, spread the sails and let God take us where he wills.” -From chapter nine: Sharing the Journey of Prayer.

    “In the religious (spiritual) tradition, contemplating means focusing your awareness on God. It also means to view (a person or object) with continued attention, to observe thoughtfully to consider thoroughly and to think deeply. …Intense listening is indistinguishable from love, and love heals. And finally, good listeners have a humble perspective. Humility is listening means that we let go of preconceived opinions, we let go of the need to be right, we let go of our own insecurities, and we let go of the need to appear wise, good or spiritual. In short, we let go of ourselves in order to be present to the other.” -From chapter four: The Power of Listening.

    This is a very well-written book. It is a thorough introduction to spiritual direction and it provides some great information on “how to get started” with several guides in the appendices: Appendix 1–provides a suggested format for the meetings; Appendix 2–has a few guided meditations and suggestions; Appendix 3–is an actual discussion guide for the Seeking God Together book. Additionally, the suggested reading list at the end of the book is very helpful for continued study. The authors and books have been categorized by subject and are some of the top resources in these particular areas of study. I am very grateful for this book and will recommend it as one on my list of “must reads” in the arena of spiritual formation and direction.

  • Dumb idea
    14:48 on August 13th, 2012
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    As a spiritual director this is one of the books that used during my three years of classes at Saint Thomas University (Miami). It has been so helpful for my formation and now for my spiritual direction practice I keep it handy as a reference.

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