Spiritual direction has played a role in Christian formation since Jesus sat at Martha and Mary’s kitchen table. People find themselves called to this path from many directions and many stages of life – young people still engaged in their M.Div. studies, retiring pastors, lay counselors, chaplains, retreat leaders, people called to serve LGBTQ+ people, interfaith leaders, those who identify as transreligious, evangelical, black church, Catholic laity – and more. Whatever path you have walked to get here, we welcome you as friends on a shared spiritual journey.
No program can certify another person as a spiritual guide. Our Program in Christian Spirituality grants a certificate or diploma that indicates that you have undertaken serious study and practical training as a spiritual director or as a guide for individuals and communities seeking spiritual formation.
Our program emphasizes that spiritual guidance is founded in your personal commitment to your own spiritual formation and spiritual direction during and after your participation in our programs. Our courses offer sustained training in deep listening, theories of spiritual direction, professional issues, the art of discernment, and exploration of a variety of spiritual practices.
The certificate and diploma in spiritual direction cover the same material and both include a two year practicum in which students will practice being a spiritual director with clients of their choosing, under the mentorship of supervisors available through our program. Certificate students choosing to emphasize formation rather than spiritual direction will design an appropriate practicum with their supervisor.
1. Diploma students receive 1.5 academic credit hours for each course. This means that in each course they will do additional reading and turn in an academic-style paper. Certificate students will take the same courses but will not do additional academic work.
2. Certificate students take 4 courses; diploma students take 5 courses.
There are a number of reasons people choose one path or another. Your situation is unique to you and discerning what is best depends on your particular circumstances.
For some, the additional academic work and extra class allows them to investigate the practice of spiritual direction from a more intellectual or academic perspective. The extra class provides additional time to explore spiritual direction in a fuller way. For some, the diploma is a credential that is more meaningful in their context than a certificate. This is especially true for people without advanced degrees.
A certificate provides the same core study and practice as the diploma and for many people it is sufficient. For those already have one or more advanced degrees—a Masters degree, an MDiv, a PhD— additional academic work seems unnecessary. Someone might already have a good deal of experience in the field of spiritual formation and direction and feel they are more ready to begin. The certificate can be completed in less time and cost less money and there are many reasons why people find this option attractive.
If you remain unsure, we are happy to talk to you to help discern which path suits you best!
David Altshuler, MDiv
Director of Enrollment
San Francisco Theological Seminary
University of Redlands | Graduate School of Theology