Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Book Note: Small Group Leadership as Spiritual Direction by Heather Webb

As GCF gets ready for the Fall Semester, I've been thinking a lot about small group ministry. GCF is committed to asking the tough questions about the integration of faith, learning, and practice, and we find that these questions are best addressed in small groups of people gathered around scripture, book study, or prayer.

I picked up Heather Webb's, Small Group Leadership as Spiritual Direction the other day. A quick read, Webb lays a foundation of what small groups tend to look like, talks about spiritual direction as a practice, reviews the interaction of direction with postmodernism and issues like sin and disclosure in small group settings, and offers three models for small group that are "directed" instead of "led."

The three new models are the "story-centered group," the "text-centered group," and the "prayer-centered group." Her descriptions of these are brief but compelling and may be worth the price of the book.

Some salutary quotes:
"On a rudimentary level, spiritual direction involves two people growing in their understanding of what it means to love God and others" (59).

"This is what spiritual direction is all about. It is pointing out God to someone who might not recognize God's voice" (58).

"Many spiritual directors dislike the term 'director' and prefer words that connote coming alongside someone, such as being a 'midwife.' The director is not leading as much as assisting in the birthing of deeper faith. The director is a friend or a wise mentor to the one in the process of rediscovering God. . . . Spiritual directors struggle with the directee, relying on God's Spirit to serve as the catalytic force for spiritual maturity" (64).

"Rather than seeing direction as a movement inward, it should be seen as the process of moving upward and outward toward God and others" (67).

"The art of spiritual direction can help create a bridge between our faith and the world in which we live [and] will have dialogue at its core. . . . The bridge metaphor means we can walk across without abandoning the starting point. . . . To be on a bridge, we must have a starting point. It is, then, essential that spiritual directors know what they believe. . . . In the face of difference, we have an opportunity to enter mystery that reminds us of our need to trust a God who is bigger than our boxes for God. We are reminded of a world larger than our own" (88-89).

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