Spiritual direction as a guide for formation and community among online ministry students.




Tate, J. David.

Access rights

Worldwide access

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Each year, Truett Seminary serves more than 200 non-academic ministry students through asynchronous theological education in its Online Certificate Program. These continuing education learners require a flexible, affordable, and excellent way to study for their faith and ministry. Towards this goal, the Truett Online Certificate Program is designed to maximize the individualized and self-paced experience, but this approach makes formational community a challenge. This research project demonstrates that online spiritual formation is possible through conversations that draw from the techniques of group spiritual direction. This project begins with the foundations of Jesus’ conversations with Nicodemus in John 3:1–21 and the Samaritan woman in 4:4–26. The example of ideal friendship found in John 15:12–15 provides context for a glimpse into how Jesus’ conversations and friendships led to the community depicted in Acts 2:42–47 and 4:32–35. Results of this intervention indicate that in a group setting, spiritual Conversation leads to a spiritual Connection with God and each other, leading to improved spiritual Community. Twelve Truett Certificate Students completed a facilitated online eight-week spiritual direction group. Participants were led in spiritual practices of lectio divina and prayer and spent time each week in group spiritual direction. They were also given a brief overview of spiritual direction practices from the perspective of learning how to improve in the “ministry of conversation.” Pre-test and post-test survey responses were compared to a control group of ten Certificate Students. The results demonstrate that the intervention led to positive, consistent, and substantial growth in the three measured areas of conversation, connection, and community.



Spiritual formation., Spiritual direction., Certificate of Ministry., Online theological education., Continuing education., Asynchronous theological education., Conversation., Connection., Community., Ideal friendship., John 4., John 3., Nicodemus., Samaritan woman., Group spiritual direction., Ministry of conversation., Non-academic theological education., Online learning., Online spiritual formation., Online group spiritual direction., Spiritual direction in African American contexts., Online spiritual direction., George W. Truett Theological Seminary., Online Certificate Program., John 3:1–21., John 4:4–26., John 15:12–15., Acts 2:42–47., Acts 4:32–35., Jesus’ conversations.