ways pastors can nurture personal and congregational spiritual growth
A pastor begins with an understanding that he/she is on a personal
spiritual journey. The pastor makes sure that his/her own soul is
nurtured by regularly practicing spiritual disciplines and cultivating
William P. Discovering the Depths: Guidance in Personal Spiritual
Growth, Revised Edition, Broadman Press, © 1987.
Doris. Spiritual Exercises: Everyday Exercises for Body and Soul,
HarperSanFrancisco, © 1993.
Doris Donnelly starts this remarkable book of everyday exercises with
“Listening” tells us everything about her view of the spiritual
life. All spiritual growth begins with listening and each of the
remaining ordinary experiences — praising, eating, working, weeping,
laughing, forgiving, and persevering — flow from this premise.
Chapters are consistently organized with a section at the end containing
practical ideas for implementing the exercise at hand. The author’s
experience as a professor of Spiritual Theology gives the book depth and
breadth. One would be hard put to find anything more inspiring,
thoughtful and practical than this well-written handbook for spiritual
Ronald. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality,
Doubleday, © 1999.
Rolheiser is a member of a missionary order in the Roman Catholic Church
dedicated to serving the poor. He says, “To serve the poor means to
try to make the word of God and God’s consolation available in a
language that is accessible to everyone and not just to those who have
the privilege of advanced academic training.” This is the gift of this
amazing book. Rolheiser has an uncanny ability to craft an idea in a way
that brings fresh meaning to old truth. With surprising clarity, the
author answers the question “What is Spirituality?” by helping us
understand such basic concepts as soul, desire and spirit. In this day
of mass-market spirituality, his reasoned discussions challenge and
ground us while affirming our own search. Alan Jones, Dean of Grace
Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, calls this book a “much needed
antidote to the consumerist view of religion; this book is both a
delight and a challenge to read.”
Henri J.M. Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, The Crossroad
Publishing Co., © 1994
his characteristically honest and insightful style, the author describes
the many ways the spirit of God is revealed in the ordinary events of
our lives, here and now. Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest,
professor and member of Daybreak, a L’Arche community in Ontario
Canada. His untimely heart attack in 1996 at the age of 63 took his
life, but we are left with a legacy of writings that will nurture
generations of spiritual seekers to come. In this reviewer’s mind,
this is one of his most succinct and helpful books.
Rodney. Wilderness Spirituality: Finding Your Way in an Unsettled
World, Element Books Inc, © 1999.
Romney was Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Seattle,
Washington for twenty years. He composed this 284-page book in 1999 just
before his retirement. Using the metaphor of wilderness, the book is
organized into two broad sections. The first explores seven images of
wilderness experience while the second describes seven wilderness
“markers,” each of which provides the foundation for what the author
calls Beatitudes of the New Wilderness. For example, marker 7 is
“waiting.” Its beatitude reads, “Blessed are those who wait upon
God, for they shall renew their strength and deepen their faith.”
Romney’s spiritual depth and personal experience permeate each chapter
giving rich textures of meaning to his ideas. At times, his political
views crackle through the pages like bolts of lightning. For those who
share his politics, his applications will be a welcome challenge. For
others, his agenda may be an annoying dead-end turn on an otherwise
fresh and life-giving journey through the wilderness.
Tilden. Living in the Presence: Disciplines for the Spiritual Heart,
HarperSanFrancisco, © 1987.
Edwards is an Episcopal priest and the founding director of the Shalem
Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a
seasoned spiritual director and has authored many books in the field of
spiritual formation. Written for “active people caring for the world
through countless vocations,” this book offers spiritual guidance and
practical exercises for those of all denominations who have a desire to
explore their faith development. “Every person is a special kind of
contemplative,” Edwards writes, “examining the many dimensions of
human life, with an eye to the ways each can be an arena of
attentiveness to God and our true identity in God.” Divided into two
sections, his insights are readily accessible. Part One is organized
into chapters by theme (for example, Grounding, Embodiment, Seeing,
Acting) and offers exercises for personal growth. His section about
praying with icons is an excellent introduction to an often-unexplored
prayer form. Part Two explores how we can support our personal growth by
“practicing the presence” in small groups. Written by a skilled
spiritual practitioner, this book will reward you, stimulate you and
nurture your growth for many years.
E. Glenn. Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership, Upper
Room Books, © 1999.
a short three-year program, it is an impossible task for seminaries to
fully prepare people for ministry. Biblical studies, ethics, theology
and missiology seem to win curriculum wars every time. What about
spiritual preparation? By that, the author means the kind of preparation
that deepens our faith maturity and allows us to be with people in the
depth of their needs and hurts, offering salt and light to them and our
world. After affirming the need for spiritual formation for ordained
church leaders, he offers ways to maintain spiritual health in the midst
of active ministry and leadership. His chapters include accountability,
time management and the interface between sexuality and spirituality. He
concludes with an interesting section on personality and spirituality.
Glenn Hinson has been a professor of spirituality and church history at
Southern Baptist and Catholic theological schools and universities. He
is an active leader of the United Methodist’s Upper Room ministries
and gives retreats around the world.
The pastor understands that spiritual guidance is a central aspect of
his or her pastoral work and leadership in the congregation.
Howard. Soul Keeping: Ancient Paths of Spiritual Direction,
Navpress, © 1998.
Baker is a spiritual director for the Rocky Mountain Region of Young
Life and serves as an instructor in spiritual formation at Denver
Seminary. The Navigators published this title as part of a series of
books, edited by Dallas Willard, exploring the devotional life. Part One
is a personal invitation to what the author calls “soul keeping” in
which he gives his own experiences with the struggles, joys and hurdles
of the spiritual life. Part Two looks at ancient paths of spiritual
formation that shed light and offer wisdom to those of us trying to live
a spiritual life in the modern world. The examples are short, easy to
understand and practical. In addition to serving as a primer for church
leaders, this book might be a good choice for a Sunday school elective
or a small group wanting an introduction to spiritual formation.
M. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Cowley
Publications, © 1992.
title of this book aptly describes Margaret Guenther’s sensitive and
wise writing. She discusses the spiritual director’s role in terms of
hospitality, good teaching, midwifery and women’s issues with many
illustrations of these traits through encounters with directees. She
also discusses how God’s leading can be discerned in the ordinary
moments of our days as well as the more noticeable events and
transitions of our lives. This book is a contemplative, practical guide
to anyone aspiring to become a “holy listener.”
Gerald. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: Psychiatric Dimensions of
Spiritual Direction, HarperSanFrancisco, © 1982.
many years, Gerald May worked as a psychiatrist in private practice
serving patients and teaching in institutions ranging from hospitals to
prisons. More recently, he has served as a staff member of the Shalem
Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland. At first
glance, this book seems weighty and theoretical. A closer look reveals a
practical, experiential approach to the important topic of the
interrelatedness of mental health, psychology and spiritual direction.
From clear definitions of common spiritual and psychological terms, to
descriptions of dark night experiences (a sense of abandonment by God,)
it would be difficult to find a more readable text from a more
authoritative author. This is a source book deserving more than one
In addition to offering academic bible study to the congregation, the
pastor introduces forms of scripture reading that include prayer and
devotion such as lectio divina and helps congregants explore
silence and meditation in these settings.
Norvene. Gathered in the Word: Praying the Scripture in Small Groups,
Upper Room Books, © 1996.
book can be seen as a compliment to Thelma Hall’s book, Too Deep
For Words. While both books explore the power of lectio divina,
a Benedictine form of praying with scripture, Norvene Vest writes of its
potential in a small group environment. She begins with a clear usable
outline of the lectio divina process and then creates an
imaginary small group where she puts this process into practice. As this
group moves through the book, she applies each aspect of the work to the
group and allows us to listen in. This helpful technique allows readers
to imagine themselves as part of the group or as the organizer of this
kind of small group ministry. Here is a well-designed, well-written
practical resource for small group work with scripture as the
centerpiece. Norvene Vest is a retreat leader and spiritual director who
has written her own commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict called, Preferring
Martin L. The Word Is Very Near You: A Guide to Praying With
Scripture, Cowley Publications, © 1989.
Smith begins with this thought: “In prayer we are never getting a
conversation going with God. We are continuing a conversation which God
has begun.” What follows is a persuasive invitation to meditative
prayer. This book is a welcome resource for anyone desiring to encounter
God through meditation with scripture. The author suggests that
meditative prayer using scripture creates an especially “favorable
condition” for God to speak to us. In Part One, Smith gently persuades
us to shift our focus from prayer as an act we perform to prayer as a
response to God’s reaching out to us. In Part Two, he provides
hundreds of scriptural passages, arranged thematically, to serve as a
reference for those who want to move from prayer as duty to meditative,
receptive prayer with Scripture. Martin L. Smith is an Episcopal priest
and a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.
S.J., Thomas H. A Vacation with the Lord: A Personal Directed Retreat
Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ignatius
Press, © 2000.
it comes to personal directed retreats, the Jesuits deserve our respect.
They not only provide methodology, they have experience — Jesuits are
required to take long retreats at certain intervals in their lives.
Thomas Green is a Jesuit priest and seasoned retreat master. In this
book, he condenses a thirty-day Jesuit-style retreat into eight days but
also makes it clear that the themes and structure could be creatively
adapted for shorter periods of time, even fitting into our daily
routines. Green explains that Ignatius divided his retreats (described
in his classic work, The Spiritual Exercises) into four weeks.
These are not calendar weeks, rather, they are thematic weeks. Week one
is concerned with self-knowledge and self-opening to God. Week two, the
heart of the retreat, focuses on being filled with Christ, week three
carries the theme of calvary and week four encompasses resurrection. He
designs the eight-day retreat around these four themes. The author says,
“A good retreat is a vacation with the Lord. It should be a joyous
time — time of hard work, probably, but a work that you thoroughly
enjoy.” This book shows
Thelma. Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina, Paulist
Press, © 1988.
anyone looking for an introduction to praying with scripture in the
style of lectio divina, this is a must-read. Two distinct
sections make this short book immediately accessible and practical.
Section one is the author’s call to the contemplative life. In it, she
takes the reader through a step by step introduction to the phases of lectio
divina: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditating), oratio
(praying) and contemplatio (resting). Her insights into this age
old “methodless method” spring from a wealth of personal experience
as a spiritual director. Not only does she describe the process of lectio
for the novice in a simple and clear way, she then provides examples of
scripture which allow the reader to immediately put lectio into
practice. In the second half of the book, she lists over 500 scripture
texts, organized under fifty themes. Examples of these themes are:
God’s Promises, Lent, Compassion, Stewardship, Suffering, Children,
Doing Justice, Trust and Relationships.
The pastor trusts in the ability and wisdom of lay persons to offer
mutual spiritual support and direction to one another and helps to
create opportunities where group spiritual guidance can occur.
Rose Mary. Group Spiritual Direction: Community for Discernment.
(Book and Video). Paulist Press, © 1995.
is a book for those who want to explore the possibilities of spiritual
direction in the context of a small group. The author begins by defining
spiritual direction and describes how direction and the process of
discernment walk hand in hand. She then describes the possibilities,
practicalities and pitfalls of direction and discernment in a group
setting and concludes with an exploration of the contemplative dimension
of group process. Rose Mary Dougherty, a member of the School Sisters of
Notre Dame, currently serves as Director for Spiritual Guidance at the
Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, MD. She describes
her primary assumption as follows: “group spiritual direction is the
contemplative stance of presence to God for one another within the group
meeting and prayer for one another outside the meeting.” Understood is
this way, group spiritual direction is probably what many people in the
church are looking for. This book is a challenging and indispensable
resource for small group prayer ministry.
Michael. To Know God: Small Group Exercises for Spiritual Formation, Judson
Press, © 2001.
Gemignani is the pastor of an Episcopal church in Texas and chair of the
division of spiritual formation for the Episcopal diocese there. His
book offers new possibilities both for small groups and for spiritual
formation. For small group ministry it opens the possibility of group
discernment and group spiritual process and for spiritual formation it
extends the options beyond a one-to-one relationship. One of the most
helpful aspects of his writing is the clarity with which he defines
spiritual terminology. For example on page 95 the author distinguishes
between spiritual direction and psychotherapy two important ways of
assisting people on their life journey but each with a different intent
and focus. From pastors to spiritual directors, Sunday school teachers
to bible study leaders, these exercises provide a welcome practical
dimension to group work and can be used effectively in a variety of
The pastor explores alternatives to Robert’s Rules of Order when
conducting the administrative aspects of the church. A process of
congregational discernment in decision- making is developed.
Danny E. and Charles M. Olsen. Discerning God’s Will Together: A
Spiritual Practice for the Church, Upper Room Books, © 1997.
spiritual practice of discernment may be a lost art in the modern
church. This book could go a long way in providing a remedy for that
unfortunate reality. In a short five chapters the authors cover the
what, why, who, how and where of discernment. They ask important
questions such as, “instead of relying on Robert’s Rules of Order,
what would happen if people in churches made decisions based on their
spiritual discernment of the question: “God, is this your will?”
Reaching into history and drawing from many models, the authors offer
practical and proven ways a church can move from a business as usual
approach to one of depth, integration and love in the decision-making
process. This is a book about the church as a genuine community, seeking
life and anticipating God’s future.
Howard. Reaching Decisions: The Quaker Method, Pendle Hill
When it comes to discernment, the Quaker tradition offers
wisdom, insight and practical methodology. While the focus of this book
is on the specifics of that methodology, the entire Pendle Hill
catalogue offers outstanding Quaker resources for congregations seeking
to revive centuries-old spiritual disciplines made nearly extinct by our
modern American political and cultural thinking.
Reach them at:
Charles M. Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual
Leaders, The Alban Institute, © 1995.
In many churches, board meetings differ little from their
corporate-American counterparts. Even non-profit service agencies, while
sharing many of the church’s values, are not organized to be the Body
of Christ in the world. For those of us longing for church structures
that promote “salt and light,”
this book ventures into welcome territory.
The pastor takes seriously the complexity and uniqueness of the members
of his/her congregation and explores ways to understand the impact of
gender, generational differences, ethnicity, preferred learning styles,
culture, season of life and personality type while cultivating
Gloria. Six Ways to Pray from Six Great Saints: Francis of
Assisi, Clare of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Therese of Lisieux, Teresa
of Avila and John of the Cross. St. Anthony Messenger Press, ©
Hutchinson begins with a simple compelling argument, “Although we have
among our own ancestors great masters of prayer, we seldom approach them
for advice. We are heirs who forget to claim our inheritance.” She
goes on to describe the unique gift each of six saints brings to the
process of deepening prayer. Francis brings the prayer of praise,
Clare’s gift is praying the day, Ignatius offers sensual prayer,
Therese brings selfless prayer, Teresa prays familiar words and John
offers the prayer of detachment. Each chapter begins with a short
portrait of the saint, moves into a description of his/her prayer style
and then offers meditations and exercises allowing us to pray along
with the Saint. This book, while expanding the possibilities for
meaningful prayer, is also an excellent introduction to six faithful
Christians each of whom left a unique mark on the history of the church.
Kathleen. Women at the Well: Feminist Perspectives on Spiritual
Direction, Paulist Press, © 1988.
Fischer is described on the cover of this book as an experienced
spiritual director, therapist and theologian. A mere reading of the
introduction of this important book affirms the depth and breadth of her
experience. Fischer not only challenges role definitions for men and
women, she persuades the reader to think and see through the eyes of
women’s experience in the world. At the end of each chapter, she
includes practical suggestions for individual and group reflection and
prayer. This book should be required reading for anyone offering
spiritual leadership and guidance but especially for men who wish to
explore what may be missing in our perspective.
Corinne. Discover Your Spiritual Type, Alban Institute, © 1995.
In this book, Corinne Ware offers a helpful addition to the
growing repertoire of writings dealing with the unique and sometimes
rigid ways we each approach our spiritual life. Her insights can help
you develop compassionate awareness for the variety of approaches
represented in our congregations.
Virginia. Asian Christian Spirituality: Reclaiming Traditions, Orbis
Books, © 1992.
This book may be hard to find but is worth the search. Our
congregations are well on their way to becoming microcosmic
representations of American society. In many parts of the country Asian
Americans make up the fastest growing segment of the population.
Understanding the unique spiritual approach of this fascinating culture
will challenge, inspire and reward you. Buy this book, read it, then
pass it along to someone else who wants to expand their world and
enlighten their soul.
III, Carlyle Fielding. Soul Survivors: An African American
Spirituality, Westminster/John Knox, © 1997.
pastor of the Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan,
Carlyle Stewart brings scholarship and years of weekly worship
leadership and community activism to his writing. Many books have been
written on the African American experience; this book focuses uniquely
on African American spirituality. The premise popping up through each
chapter is this: “The uniqueness of the African American paradigm of
human freedom lies precisely in the way black Americans have used
culture and spirituality as creative soul force in naming, defining,
creating and transforming black existence. The efficacy of this paradigm
of freedom lies in its capacity to encourage black people to develop a
culture of spirituality and a spirituality of culture where the freedom
to create is intimately bound to the freedom to be.” While it is
impossible for one person to speak for an entire culture, it is possible
to shine a light from inside that culture that illuminates the hearts
and minds of those standing on the outside. Carlyle Stewart’s insights
are a beacon.
Howard. Disciplines of the Spirit, Friends United Press, ©
Howard Thurman died in 1981. He is widely recognized as a
pre-eminent African American poet, mystic, philosopher and theologian.
At the time of his death, he was Dean Emeritus of Marsh Chapel, Boston
University. Throughout his career he authored more than twenty books on
the spiritual life and served as a teacher and dean in a variety of
well-known Colleges and Universities including Howard school of
religion. Like many of his books, this one grew from Dr. Thurman’s
lectures. In the introduction, he describes the purpose of this writing
as an examination of certain aspects of human experience. He chose these
aspects for their universality and because of their “significance for
tutoring the human spirit.” The five he includes are these:
commitment, growth, suffering, prayer and reconciliation. If you have
not read Howard Thurman’s books, this is a good one with which to
begin. You’ll want to read more. His mind and his spirit will become a
trusted companion on your spiritual journey.
The pastor understands the value of long range planning and recognizes
the spiritual life of the congregation as the central ingredient in
healthy church growth.
Howard E. Recovering the Sacred Center: Church Renewal from the
Inside Out. Judson Press, © 1998.
Friend is a seasoned pastor and retreat leader. His commitment to
personal sabbath and inner growth is evident. His book is a refreshing
compliment to the many resources available dealing with church growth
strategy. His call to the sacred center may or may not lead a
congregation to be “seeker sensitive” but will ultimately lead
people to spiritual transformation. In a world of trend watching and
demographic analysis, this call to spiritual depth and authentic
community resonates in the soul. Filled with personal experiences and
dramatic stories, this book is part spiritual journal and part renewal
manual. His practical ideas flow easily from his stories and analogies.
Churches who accept the challenge of his conclusions and adapt his
suggestions to their unique situations will be richly rewarded.
William M. and Thomas G. Bandy. Growing Spiritual Redwoods,
Abington, © 1997.
the metaphor of the forest, Bandy and Easum describe healthy thriving
churches as Spiritual Redwoodsorganic, dynamic, relational, natural
and big. This is a book about vitality in churches and is also,
unashamedly, a church growth book. In the midst of encouraging bigness,
a concept that may or may not speak to your soul, there is plenty of
wisdom here for church leaders. As you read, the design of the pages
make this book feel like “church growth for dummies.” One-liners are
set apart in text boxes and practical suggestions abound. Phrases like
“spirituality is more important than credentials” in the leadership
chapter catches the eye immediately. This book is best taken in small
doses. Because of the thematic nature of the chapters, reading sections
in isolation is easy. Anyone with an eye to church growth and the future
will find this book a worthwhile read.
by Brad Berglund, © 2002.
For More Information Contact Brad Berglund
8273 E. Davies Avenue • Centennial, Colorado 80112
Toll free: 877.489.8500 • Phone: 720.489.8073
and Author Brad Berglund Taizé
Taizé-style worship in the Denver area