Spiritual Formation Team offers tools for spiritual maturity

December 15, 2021

The Adult Discipleship Team of the North Alabama Conference has formed a Spiritual Formation subcommittee. This group helps others who seek to devote themselves to practices that deepen their faith and strengthen discipleship. Rev. Roger Short, who chairs the subcommittee, shares some information about it in this article.

Impact

Spiritual formation ministries support, shape, and strengthen the North Alabama Conference mission to “Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” They undergird the vision, mission, and ministries of the United Methodist churches that comprise the North Alabama Conference. Spiritual formation ministries aid individual believers in their respective journeys toward spiritual health and maturity. The North Alabama Conference Spiritual Formation Team explores and teaches spiritually formative practices—some very ancient practices—to become fully alive in Christ and in Creation.


Definitions

Spiritual formation, according to the late theologian and author M. Robert Mulholland Jr., is “a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” Author, teacher, and spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton puts it this way: "Spiritual transformation is the process by which Christ is formed in us …for the glory of God, for the abundance of our own lives, and for the sake of others." (Galatians 4:19; Romans 8:29; Romans 12:1, 2)

The possibility that human beings can be transformed to such an extent that they image Christ is central to the message of the gospel and therefore it is central to the mission of the Church. Spiritual transformation in the lives of redeemed people is a testimony to the power of the Gospel and it results in an increasing capacity to discern and do the will of God. (Romans 12:2) Spiritually formative practices are not, of themselves, either the cause or the direct means by which Christ’s followers are transformed. The Holy Spirit is the author of that inner work. Disciples of Christ engage in spiritually formative practices or Christian disciplines in order to become open and receptive to the grace, voice, and touch of God whenever God chooses to bless, speak or touch them.

According to Mulholland, some of the classical spiritual disciplines are prayer, spiritual reading and liturgy. Pastor and author Richard J. Foster, in his analysis of spiritual disciplines, writes of meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance and celebration. Almost any activity can, in fact, contribute to a person’s spiritual growth, but any activity has the potential to harm a soul as well—especially if misapplied. Today, many who engage in spiritual formation ministries employ ancient practices and also experiment with contemporary spiritually formative practices.


Ministries

Examples of North Alabama Conference spiritual formation ministries include:
  • Academy for Spiritual Formation
  • Walk to Emmaus (spiritual formation experience for adults)
  • Chrysalis (spiritual formation experience for youth)
  • Journey to the Table (spiritual formation experience for young adults)
  • Face to Face (spiritual formation experience for senior adults)
  • Community of the Mantle
  • Companions in Christ
  • Disciple Bible Studies
  • Discovery Weekend
  • Kairos Prison Ministry
  • Portable Labyrinth
  • Silent Retreats
  • Spiritual Direction or Spiritual Companionship
  • Summer Camps
  • Spiritual Life Retreats
  • Pray Together
  • Read Together
  • Spirituality Workshops
     

Resources

Resources for establishing and multiplying spiritual formation ministries are readily available for access and use by churches, groups, or individuals. Anyone may contact the North Alabama Conference Spiritual Formation Team for direct assistance or referral to qualified and skilled teachers, retreat leaders, spiritual directors, and workshop facilitators. Team Leader, Roger Short, and North Alabama Conference staff person, Lyn Cosby, can share ideas, book recommendations, helpful websites, and training opportunities, as well.

Rev. Roger Short—Chair, Spiritual Formation Team
205-478-8214 or pastorog@gmail.com

Discover, Develop and Deploy Spiritual Leaders to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.