A private practice in spiritual direction will be as unique as the spiritual director is unique. Just as you are to provide hospitality to directees, you are to provide hospitality to your unique self as you venture into starting up a private practice. Therefore, it is vitally important to prayerfully acknowledge before the Lord your hopes and dreams, as well as your desire to start up this practice. Consider a prayer of examen at this initial juncture. You might want to prayerfully consider (on your own or with your spiritual director) where your motivation for the spiritual direction practice lies; where you might struggle trusting the Spirit as you venture into very new territory; and most importantly, whether or not God is calling you to this particular form of ministry. Once this ground work is laid, then and only then, will the ‘nuts and bolts’ of starting up a spiritual direction practice become a joy even as they are a lot of work.
Spiritual direction, although not a new practice, is a relatively new concept for many Christians as a professional business. While there are legitimate arguments against the professionalization of the movement of the Holy Spirit and those arguments ought to always inform and provide accountability for all spiritual directors, the movement toward professionalization has equally legitimate roots and support. It is a Biblically sanctioned expectation that, as we live in community, we can make a sustainable living from this work (c.f. I Cor. 9:7-14).
Sustainable living also comes with the assumption that we will adhere to Gospel values as we conduct our business. First, we must remember that it is God that builds our practice. He is the Director. Second, it is prayer that sustains our practice. We are to pray for our directees, and ask them to pray for us (rather than pray to build our business). Third, we are to act responsibly (i.e. ethically) and pay attention to the details of the work we have been called to do. It is within these Gospel principles that the following suggestions are made.
Although spiritual direction can never be reduced to being viewed as merely a business, the practicality is that setting up a spiritual direction practice is akin to setting up any other small business. Viewed through this lens, there are a number of areas to focus on that can help us as we begin this new venture.
In the next installment of this article, we’ll talk about deciding on a location for your office and being intentional about finding directees. In part three, we’ll look at how to do all of this while still being ethical with the practice you have already. And, finally, part four answers some frequently asked questions.
Tracey-Ann Van Brenk, M.Div.