Academy for Spiritual Leadership

Paraprofessional Certification in Spiritual Formation

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A continuing education program that is recognized by the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) in Nashville, TN. This certification program does not required a Bachelor's degree, all may participate. It has been designed for specialized ministry in spiritual formation ministries within congregations, particularly focused on quality lay education and clergy excellence.

Beginning in fall 2016, the program includes six retreats held at First United Methodist in Baton Rouge and spaced over two years beginning October 14-15. The retreats are led by faculty from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and include classes and readings in spiritual disciplines and prayer, the practice of holy listening, developing Bible study for faith formation, practicums in congregational life, and Methodist heritage and faith formation. Each retreat will be held from 5 to 9 pm. on Friday night and on Saturday from 9 am. to 4:30 pm. Meals will be provided.

Participants seeking paraprofessional certification in spiritual formation ministries may completed the requirements of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church through this program. The core competencies include the regular practice of the spiritual disciplines, practice of holy conferencing with individuals and small groups, developing Bible studies for faith formation, Wesleyan history and theology and supervised leadership in spiritual formation ministry within the local congregation. Candidates will come to understand the essential link between Christian spiritual formation, congregational life and discipleship for the world.

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Who grants the CEU’s?
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, has been approved by GBHEM to offer this program and grant 8 CEU’s in year one and 7 CEU’s for year two. This program is partnered with The Ministry of Spiritual Formation of First United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Must I take the whole series?
Yes.  People may not “drop in” for a particular segment of the program. Please anticipate participating in the whole series, 6 retreats over two years, held at FUMC, Baton Rouge (some will be simulcast in northern Louisiana); and 6-7 monthly small group gatherings each year in your area of Louisiana. Please mark your calendar now with the dates for the Friday night/Saturday retreat events in Baton Rouge or simulcast. Your small group leader will work with group participants to coordinate dates and times for monthly gatherings.

What if I already have completed another program in spiritual formation/direction?
Completion of the Upper Room Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation or the Louisiana Conference Academy for Spiritual Direction will not count toward the Paraprofessional Certification series. If you are a graduate of these or other programs, consider taking the Paraprofessional Certification to round out your preparation for specialized ministries within a United Methodist congregational setting and/or use the Paraprofessional program to satisfy some of your continuing education requirements. You may prefer to seek Professional Certification (see below for more information on Professional Certification).

Who grants the Paraprofessional Certification and to whom will I be accountable?
GBHEM will review your application, after fulfillment of all requirements – the designated two-year study program and two years of recognized “leadership under supervision in spiritual formation.” You are then referred to the Louisiana Conference (UMC) for psychological evaluation, background check, and interview with the designated committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry. After receiving Certification, you must continue in active leadership in spiritual formation and submit your program of continuing education every two years for renewal of the Certification to the Board of Ordained ministry of the conference and to GBHEM.

Who should take this?
Lay persons or pastors with a particular passion for leading spiritual formation groups, retreats, and discernment processes within their congregation(s).

Who should not take this program?
The program will not provide graduate seminary credit. It does not qualify for Advanced Course of Study (which must be graduate credit). It does not qualify for coursework contributing toward Deacon or Elder ordination. It does not provide sustained training in one-on-one spiritual direction.

What is Professional Certification?
Professional Certification in Spiritual Formation covers the same 5 areas of study contained within the Paraprofessional series, but with more advanced graduate courses for each of the topics. Professional Certification is a stepping stone for many persons seeking Deacon orders and if approved by the conference Board of Ordained Ministry, might be used toward Advanced Course of Study.

Dr. Dwight Judy is happy to discuss the differences if you are concerned about which route to take, you may contact him directly.

What can I “do” with this program?
You will be well equipped to offer small group studies in spiritual formation; Bible studies with a spiritual formation focus; to guide the committees within your congregation toward a discernment model of spiritual formation; enrich your prayer chains/teams and worship life of your congregation; facilitate small groups in the Wesleyan tradition. Your own devotional life will be enhanced with an understanding and sustained practice in a variety of Christian prayer practices. You will be able to state the unique perspective of our Methodist heritage for Christian discipleship. You will have sustained accountability for continuing your growth in spiritual formation practice. You would be qualified for a volunteer or paid position within your congregation to guide spiritual formation and prayer ministries.

Steps toward application:

  • Discuss with Cherri Johnson, Director of Spiritual Formation, FUMC.
  • For concerns about distinction between Paraprofessional and Professional Certification, contact Dr. Dwight Judy, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Formation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.
  • Fill out application and send to Cherri Johnson