Are there Scholarship funds available for the two year experience? How do I apply?
Yes, scholarship funds are available, thanks to the donations of past academy participants and other generous donors. These funds are awarded on a "needs basis" for individuals who might not be able to experience the Academy for Spiritual Formation otherwise.The process is:
Select the two year program you wish to attend and apply to Academy office
Once approved, you are welcome to apply for a partial Academy scholarship
Click here to download the scholarship application to complete and send upon acceptance into the programBesides the Academy/Upper Room Scholarship program, there are other sources that may be available. Click here to download a document that provides suggestions for finding additional financial resources for your two year academy experience.Consider applying for a Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Grant. More information available at http://www.cpx.cts.edu/renewal/apply/national-programAlways feel free to contact the Academy office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling toll free 877-899-2780 ext. 7233 with any questions you may have.
Are CEU's (Continuing Education Units) offered through The Academy for Spiritual Formation?
Yes, three (3) CEU's are offered for each Five-Day Academy or Two-Year Academy session attended at an additional cost of $15. Forms will be provided at the retreat.
What are the reading assignments for a Two-Year Academy, and how much will they cost?
Participants in a Two-Year Academy program are provided with four reading assignments each quarter. These books are provided by presenting faculty of each session. You may find the reading assignment on the "Community" page of this website, under the section called "What They're Reading".
The average cost of each book is $13.00 each. A Kindle version is often available at a less expensive option.
Is advanced course credit available to Lay Servant Ministers (UMC) through participation in a Five-Day or Two-Year Academy?
Alternative advanced course credit is now determined at the annual conference level. On page 25 of our new 2015 Lay Servant Ministry catalog, it gives conferences guidelines for determining credit. It is suggested that those seeking Lay Servant Ministry credit first check with their annual conference to make sure it will be approved as alternative advanced credit. A certificate of course completion is provided to each participant. Lay Servant Ministers would provide the certificate to their district or annual conference committee for credit approval.
Each Five-Day Academy or session of a Two-Year Academy includes 30 hours of instruction.
What spiritual direction is ...
Spiritual direction may be formal or informal, one-on-one or in small groups. It may be primarily a peer relationship, in which the term “spiritual friendship” is more appropriate. Or may be a relationship between someone who is clearly designated the “director” and another person, the “directee.” Sometimes fees are involved and sometimes they are not.
Programs that seek to “train spiritual directors” may use one approach, such as Ignatian, or several different modalities. Most require that the person getting the training receive spiritual direction first, and then undergo supervision as they begin offering spiritual direction to others. Training programs are as short as three weeks and as long as three years. Some are affiliated with a seminary; most are not. Spiritual Directors International (www.sdiworld.org) provides a network and an annual conference to resource this work. A code of ethics is also a part of SDI’s ministry and concern.
There is no universally recognized certification in spiritual direction. Anyone can hang up a sign that says “Spiritual Director.” There are reasons for this theologically – what “training” can possibly legitimate such holy and privileged encounter? There are also organizational headaches – who would want to officially “certify” such a ministry, and keep the list current? Denominations go to great effort to evaluate, prepare and support people for ordained ministry; who’s prepared to do the same for something that seems even more amorphous?
Good spiritual direction programs are humble about what they are doing. Shalem, for example, certifies only that people have been trained in spiritual direction; it does not certify that they are spiritual directors. “Only God does that,” Gerald May is reported to have said.
Examples from the Academy
This background may help you to see how important a program like the Academy is for someone considering the ministry of spiritual direction, but also to see what it is not. Here are some examples of individuals from the Academy involved in spiritual direction ministry.
Susan came to the Academy as an ordained Deacon and trained social worker, looking for a new ministry. With such a rich background she hardly needed more skills or theology to become a spiritual director; she needed a discerning and supportive community to listen to her call. She found it in the Academy and did not feel that she needed to go for additional training. She’s now been a spiritual director for fifteen years.
Nancy’s background was much more limited when she went to the Academy. She had gone through a divorce and needed healing. She had taken a couple of courses at seminary, but didn’t have a wide background theologically or spiritually. As she went through the Academy, she got in touch with the gifts that God had given her. An extrovert, she began to see that she was already doing some informal spiritual direction with her friends. She decided she wanted additional training to build on what she already knew. A couple of years after her Academy, she went through a two-year training program in spiritual direction and has now been a spiritual director for ten years.
Tom came to the Academy fully expecting that he would become a spiritual director. He was restless in his ministry with his congregation and thought God was calling him to something different. As he went through the Academy, he realized the “itch” he felt was not about a change in ministry, but a change in himself. He learned spiritual practices that helped him to balance the demands of parish ministry with his personal needs. Five years after the Academy he’s glad he did not change his vocational direction.
Jane on the other hand was already doing full-time spiritual direction ministry when she came to the Academy. She knew that she needed a larger framework for her work, however, and a supportive community where she could rest. The stimulation and the discipline of the Academy were just right for her; she’s continued to serve as a spiritual director in the three years since completing the Academy, now with new energy and broader perspective.
There are a variety of ways in which the Academy relates to the ministry of spiritual direction. Our prayers with you as you discern the right path for you. This is surely an important ministry for the Church and for our world today!
The Academy and D.Min: I have decided to apply for the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation and I am interested in getting a Doctor of Ministry degree. How can I do both?
In general, we recommend that you participate in the Academy and then pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree rather than trying to do both at the same time. This allows you to participate fully in the Academy and enjoy it without trying to analyze the experience. The Academy for Spiritual Formation is a broad-based but in-depth encounter built around a desire to grow in one’s relationship with God. Academic programs, such as Doctor of Ministry programs, tend to be more analytically oriented.
Following your participation in the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation with a doctoral program can be a way to continue and sharpen your focus. There is a lot of interest now in applying some of the principles and practices of spiritual formation for ministry. Some doctoral programs may help you to do that. Before enrolling, you’ll want to look carefully at the seminary’s offerings, its history and faculty and talk to current and former students.
Finally, consider what it is that you are looking for. Why do you want a D.Min.? If you are looking for a way to concentrate your studies in a particular area of ministry, it may be a valuable endeavor. On the other hand, giving yourself permission to participate fully in an Academy for Spiritual Formation community may fill your first and most essential desire for a growing relationship with God.
Below are a few seminaries that offer credit or waive requirements for those who have completed the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation. Others may grant independent study credit, but usually require tuition payments to do so. Besides these seminaries, you may also pursue credit for participation in the Academy for Spiritual Formation through independent study at the seminary of your choice. Seminary faculty may be very supportive here, depending on the limitations within which they operate. You may need to pay tuition for credit however.
- The Graduate Theological Foundation (www.gtfeducation.org) recognizes the course work done at the Academy for Spiritual Formation. Those enrolled in their Doctor of Ministry program who have completed the two-year Academy only need to complete a thesis/project in order to receive the degree. GTF is located in South Bend, but students in the D.Min. need to only come to Indiana twice: for an orientation and for graduation. The assumption is that most of the work will be done by students through long-distance learning. GTF is not accredited by the Association of Theological Seminaries in North America. Because of its history with the Roman Catholic and Anglican (Episcopal) churches, GTF considers itself “accredited” by Rome and Canterbury. Their D.Min. is recognized by Oxford (with whom they share a partnership) and Centro Pro Unione, a major Vatican educational center. Since the 1980's GTF has moved into broader ecumenism with a Quaker President and interfaith relations with Eastern Orthodox and Islamic participation. Several Academy faculty presenters as well as participants have completed their D.Min. from GTF.
- Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, recognizes participation in the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation as partial fulfillment of coursework requirements. Forty-five credit hours are required for the degree; completing the two-year Academy is worth ten credit hours. More information about Ashland can be found at www.ashland.edu/seminary This seminary offers several tracts for the D.Min. degree; Dr. Lee Solomon is the Director.
- The Protestant seminary in San Juan, Puerto Rico, requires participation in a Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation for its D.Min. The website for “Seminario Evangelico Puerto Rico” is www.se-pr.org
Spiritual direction in the Academy
Participants in the Academy receive spiritual direction in diverse ways: through the liturgy, their small groups, their interactions with faculty and one-on-one conversations with the leadership team. One of the sixteen courses focuses particularly on “Spiritual Guidance,” a term which we prefer to use rather than spiritual direction. The course description indicates that the faculty presenter will give an overview of the history and theology of spiritual guidance, review the current practices and resources, offer guidance for those seeking a spiritual director and help anyone trying to discern if this is a ministry to which they are being called.
When the Academy began in 1983, a clear decision was made to focus on the broader and more comprehensive area of Christian spiritual formation rather than to develop a training module in spiritual direction. There were several reasons for this decision. Spiritual direction training centers, such as the Shalem Institute, were springing up around the country. The Upper Room saw no need to compete directly with these efforts. Additionally, some of the spiritual direction programs seek an interfaith audience; leaders from The Upper Room felt a call to resource the Church and its leaders specifically in terms of the Christian faith tradition.
Over the years the wisdom of this decision has been confirmed. Some come to the Academy wondering whether they are called to the ministry of spiritual direction; the Academy helps them to make this discernment. Others come knowing they are called to become spiritual directors but with the awareness that their own background regarding Christian spiritual formation is very limited. And some of those who come to the Academy have already begun a ministry of spiritual direction but now know they need to broaden and deepen their own understanding and support system.
¿Se ofrecen créditos de educación continua?
Sí, se ofrecen tres créditos de educación continua por cada Academia de Cinco Días y por cada sesión de la Academia de Dos Años al costo de $15. Los formularios deben estar disponibles para completarse y enviarse al equipo de líderes.
How do I receive funding for my Two-Year Academy through a GBHEM Certification in Spiritual Formation?
Your full participation in a Two-Year Academy fulfills two courses of the Certification in Spiritual Formation offered through the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM). More information can be found at: http://www.gbhem.org/education/certification
Completed applications should be forwarded to the Academy office. You must be enrolled in both a Two-Year Academy, and working towards a Certification in Spiritual Formation, open to both lay and clergy. The Academy office will process and forward applications to the GBHEM office after session one of a Two-Year Academy.
Does the United Methodist Church certify people in spiritual direction?
At the 2000 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, delegates approved a new certification program in spiritual formation (not in spiritual direction). Like other certifications in the UMC (such as Christian Education, Camping & Retreat Ministry, etc.), it is administered through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville but requires individuals to seek approval through their United Methodist Conference structures. Lay persons, Deacons and Elders may be certified following a program of seminary study with practical application. Detailed information is available through their website (www.gbhem.org/certification).
Five courses are required for the Certification in Spiritual Formation. Those who have completed the two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation® may be exempt from two of the five courses.
Even though some of the course work for the Certification in Spiritual Formation is in spiritual direction, the term “spiritual formation” was chosen to represent the variety of ways in which this orientation may be applied in one’s ministry.
For further information, contact the GBHEM Certification Office at 615-340-7375 or at email@example.com.