Overview of Spiritual Formation Opportunities at PTS
Some people come to counseling for guidance in faith development, spiritual disciplines, or discernment of call. While students are encouraged to talk about their faith in counseling, individual and group spiritual direction also provide a unique setting for exploring these issues. Local spiritual directors are available to help students and spouses deepen their capacity to “listen for God” in and out of the classroom, in all of life’s experiences. Information about spiritual direction at PTS and a list of local directors is available through the Office of of Student Counseling, Chapel Office, Student Relations & Senior Placement, Field Education, and Multicultural Relations.
Individual Spiritual Direction
Students and spouses who have pursued individual spiritual direction during their time at Princeton Seminary routinely report that it has been an invaluable component of their faith formation. Many love having an opportunity to simply focus on where they are in their faith journey with a caring, trained "companion" who can help them hear the meaning in what they are saying and mine what they are experiencing.
Most people meet with a spiritual director on a monthly basis for an hour. Some directors will meet with students in the Spiritual Direction/Counseling Room of Miller Chapel. Others prefer to meet with students in their own offices off campus. The 14 directors on the general referral list are not employed by the seminary and students are responsible to contact the director to set up sessions and discuss location and fees. In their own practices directors may charge a fee of $50. Many will reduce the fee to about $25 for students and spouses at PTS who are not enrolled in the Student Health Benefit Plan. If you wish to pursue direction and this fee is beyond your means, please see the Director of Student Counseling, Nancy Schongalla-Bowman.
This year, the Student Health Benefits Plan has included a benefit to make individual (and group) spiritual direction even more affordable for students and spouses who are enrolled in this plan. It is probably the only health insurance plan in the world which includes spiritual direction a covered benefit and there is no deductible for this benefit. There are seven male and female spiritual direction providers, some ordained and some not, included on the in-network list. Students and spouses enrolled in the SHBP will pay a per visit copay of $10 to the provider for services at the provider's office. The copay is $15 per visit if the provider arranges to provide services to the student on campus. The benefit covers up to 12 sessions per year. THE SHBP provides 100 percent coverage following the applicable copayments. The director sends an invoice to Klais Insurance Inc., so the student's responsibility is simply the copay to the director at the time of their meeting. Sessions provided under this individual benefit will not reduce the 24 session plan year limit for outpatient mental health and alcohol/substance abuse care. The student or spouse is required to obtain a referral from the Office of Student Relations, the Office of Student Counseling, or the Minister of the Chapel. No benefits are payable under the Spiritual Direction Benefit without a referral.
Spiritual Direction and Companionship Groups
Spiritual Direction groups honor the call to a deeper relationship with God within a small prayerful community. Assisted by a trained Spiritual Director, participants focus on articulating God's presence in the whole of life through prayerful listening and responding to each other.
The groups normally meet on campus every other week throughout a semester for an hour and a half. There are five individuals or three couples in each group. Participants agree to regular attendance and to holding all that is shared within their group as sacred and confidential.
There is a minimal co-pay for students and spouses in these groups. Participants enrolled in the Student Health Plan Benefit Play pay $30 per six-session semester; those not in the plan pay $42. There are two ways to participate: join one of the existing groups, or form your own group of five people and a director will be assigned
For more information, to join a group, or to arrange to have a director assigned to your group of five, contact Teresa Heyer in the Chapel Office.
Why Consider Spiritual Direction?
Dan, an earnest, bright man, knows the Pastoral Search Committee is going to ask about his prayer life. He reads about prayer, but feels insecure talking about his personal devotional practices. He feels uncertain and ill-prepared in this area in comparison to his knowledge and experience with preaching, teaching and administration. Individual or group spiritual direction will enable him to express his desire to serve God’s people by assembling spiritual disciplines that will strengthen him, bring him closer to God’s presence and model effective Christian discipleship.
Tammy felt close to God, even as a child. She followed the prayer practices of her faith community, but since coming to seminary her intimacy with God is lack luster and she is afraid to tell any one she is feeling empty in her prayers. Spiritual companionship offers a non-judgmental and supportive presence as she regains her spiritual footing and prepares the way for the new relational opportunities and disciplines God desires for her.
Sydney is new to the faith community. The seminary experience is exhilarating and exhausting and frequently feels challenging intellectually, emotionally and religiously. Sometimes, in the quiet moments, Sydney feels more chaos than commitment, more confusion that certainty about what it means to be a faithful disciple. Through individual or group spiritual companionship he can explore the personal side of faith that supports, compliments, and undergirds the challenging work of being a religious professional in the parish, in the academy or in the non-profit world.
Spiritual direction or spiritual companionship is a conversation held in God’s presence. It is an opportunity to listen and reflect upon one’s faith journey in the presence of a person trained to hear the deep questions of faith, hope, and love. Together, the spiritual mentor and seeker ponder examples of God’s goodness and care in order to promote faithfulness and understand the purpose and direction of an individual’s life.
Typically, individual direction occurs once a month and group direction every other week. This allows time to reflect and notice God’s presence in the ordinary experiences of life. Using conversation, silence, prayer, and reflection, the unique ways God speaks, comforts, guides and strengthens an individual will come into focus. Out of these discoveries, spiritual disciplines or practices will emerge as opportunities to grow closer in love and praise.
Life circumstances and struggles may be discussed during spiritual direction, but problem solving is not the focus. Because life is frequently ambiguous and confusing, spiritual direction enables a person to see how these events illuminate or obscure a sense of God’s love and presence. Many people pursue counseling and spiritual direction simultaneously, especially if they are working through a difficult issue.
Come to the Chapel Office in Scheide hall for details and a list of directors who meet with PTS students. Some provide direction for employees during non-business hours.
- The Rev. Terry Thomas Primer, D. Min.
Chaplain, Springpoint Foundation
Spiritual Formation Resources
Spring Flower Meditation Video - video link
Retreat Center Guide (download as a PDF)
Spiritual Direction Brochure (download as a PDF)