Soul Care Course





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Soul Care: The Art and Science of Spiritual Direction Course 2012





Dr Alex Tang



Course Description

This is an introduction to the art and science of spiritual direction as soul care in the Protestant tradition.  The course will provide a model for spiritual direction as soul care in the local congregations. The primary focus will be upon listening, seeking wisdom and direction of God in journeying with others. Attention will be given to two other questions: the inner spiritual life of the spiritual director as well as the art of discernment.

Course Objectives:

The desired outcomes are that by the end of the course, students are able to

  • develop a biblical and theological basis for spiritual direction, spiritual formation and transformation
  • understand the psychospiritual dynamics of spiritual development
  • listen and cultivate discernment concerning the movements of the Holy Spirit
  • acquire some basic skills in spiritual direction

Course Outline

1.      Spiritual direction

a.       Definitions

b.      Continuum of soul care

2.      Biblical and theological basis for spiritual formation and direction

3.      Spiritual direction in different Christian traditions and denominations

4.      The psychospiritual dynamics of spiritual formation

5.      The spiritual director

a.       Qualities

b.      Responsibilities

c.       Dangers

6.      The spiritual directee

a.       Qualities

b.      Responsibilities

c.       Dangers

7.      The process of spiritual direction

a.       Attraction

b.      Relationship

c.       Responsiveness

d.      Accountability

e.       Empowerment

8.      Scripture in spiritual direction (see Appendix A)

9.      Prayer

10.  Art of Listening

11.  Discernment

12.  Guidelines for spiritual direction


On-campus sessions outline










Monday 27 August

Tuesday 28 August

Wednesday 29 Aug

Thursday 30 August

Friday 31 August

9am -10am





Morning              lectio divina

Morning              lectio divina

Morning              lectio divina

Morning              lectio divina

10am – 1 pm




Spiritual Direction

·         defining

·         differentiating

·         theological and biblical basis

·         in practice


Process of spiritual direction (1)

·         dynamics

·         director

·         directee

Process of spiritual direction (2)

·         attraction

·         relationship

·         responsiveness

Process of spiritual direction (3)

·         accountability

·         empowerment

Process of spiritual direction (4)

·         small group

·         guidelines

·         round off on-campus session


Lunch break

Lunch break

Lunch break

Lunch break

Lunch break

2pm -3pm




Small group

Who are you?

Tell me a little about yourself

Small group

Where are you from?

Tell me a bit of your background

Small group

How did you get here?

Share about the major influences in your life

Small group

What are you seeking?



















Academic Requirements

  • Reading

  • Lectures/ discussions/ role play

  • Small groups

  • Reflection paper

  • Book Review

  • Research paper



Submission of assignments

Students should submit all assignments on time. Late assignments will receive grade reduction. No assignment that is more than 10 days late will be accepted unless the student has received an extension from the facilitator.

  • Email (preferred): A soft copy of your assignments should be emailed to me at; with a copy to the registrar Ann Lim.
  • Submit as hard-copy: please send by mail to Dr Alex Tang, Johor Specialist Hospital, 39B, Jalan Abdul Samad, 80100 Johor Baru. It is recommended that you register your item. Let me know by email or sms when you have posted your assignment.

In all cases, ensure that you keep a copy of your submitted assignments in case your copies are lost in transit in cyperspace or the mail.

Assessment items

All students are expected to attend and participate in all sessions; this is a short, compact course; attendance is therefore expected for all sessions.

1.      Reading (10%)

Read the recommended texts and the course reader and from the bibliography (900

pages for graduate students, 600 pages for undergraduate students).

2.      Small Group Discussion and Reflection Paper (10%)

Each student will either choose or be assigned to a small group of 2-4 persons (ideally

3). The facilitator will provide guidelines during the first session for these

groups which will meet during the week of the course. From this small group interaction each student will submit a reflection paper of 1,500 words (about 3-4 pages).  

DUE: Sun., Sep 30, 2012


3.      Book Review (30%)

Write a review essay of two books from the required reading list or bibliography (2,500 words [about 5-8 pages] for graduate students, 1,500 words [about 3-5 pages] for undergraduate students). Note: The course reader is not included. Only books from the required reading list or bibliography may be chosen for this assignment; any additional books need to be approved in advance by the facilitator.

DUE: Mon., Nov 26, 2012


4.      Research paper (50%)

Complete a research project on a topic, theory, issue, concept or practice related to this course. The student should decide on their topic by the end of the classes and discuss with the facilitator.

a.       This research process is developed in the following way:

-identify a problem/topic/issue. It must be related to spiritual direction

-read up on the problem/topic/issue

-develop a thesis/abstract/outline/solution and framework

-read more and reflect on readings

-start writing

b.      This research paper should be between 5,000 [about 12-15 pages] words for graduate students, 3,500 words [about 8-10 pages] for undergraduate students excluding the reference list.

c.       It is expected that the student will follow the Chicago Turabian Author-Date format.

d.      Assessment criteria are appended on the following page:


DUE: Mon., Nov 26, 2012


Research Paper Assessment


Name__________________________________________ Date___________




                                                          High extant                                                               Low extant


Excellent Criteria achieved to a high extent

Mostly well done, minor flaws                      

Good, but room for improvements

Only just satisfactory                   








Understand assignment purpose & structure






Identification of key issues






Clearly presented






Significant in scope






Appropriate rationale






Discussion section






Able to identify differences/similarities






Discusses rather than merely describes






Ability to interact/critique resources






Relates to course resources






Insight clear and logical






Challenges/difficulties identified






Suitable selection of issues






Clearly stated means to overcome






Personal Implication






Clear insights






Sense of honesty and realism












Writing style- clear and appropriate






Spelling and grammar accurate






Proper references given







General Comments:



Adapted from Dr Allan Harkness


Recommended Reading

Required reading:

(1)   Anderson, Keith R. & Randy D. Reese. 1999. Spiritual Mentoring. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

(2)   The course reader

(3)   One of the following:

a.       Peterson, Eugene H. 1989. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

b.      Barry, William A., William J. Connolly. 2009. The Practice of Spiritual Direction. New York, NY: HarperOne.



Benner, David G. 2002. Sacred Companions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Bakke, Jeanette A. 2000. Holy Invitations. Grand Rapids, Ml: Baker Books.

Baker, Howard. 1998. Soul Keeping: Ancient Paths of Spiritual Direction. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Barry, William A. 1990. Discernment in Prayer: Paying Attention to God. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Publication.

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. 2005.  Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Demacopoulos, George E. 2007. Five Models of Spiritual Direction in the Early Church. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame.

Edwards, Tilden. 1980. Spiritual friend: Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Dyckman, Katherine Marie, L. Patrick Carroll. 1981. Inviting the Mystic Supporting Prophet. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Gratton, Carolyn. 1995. The Art of Spiritual Guidance: a Contemporary Approach to Growing in the Spirit. NY: Crossroad.

Guenther, Margaret. 1992. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. Cambridge: Cowley Pubs.

Horsfall, Tony. 2008. Mentoring for Spiritual Growth. Abingdon, UK: The Bible Reading Fellowship.

Houston, James M. 2006. Joyful Exiles.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

Howard, Elmer B. 2008. The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapid

Brazos Press.

Johnson, Jan. 1999. When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative

Prayer. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Jones, Alan 1982. Exploring Spiritual Direction. Boston, MA: Cowley Publications.

Jones, W. Paul. 2002. The Art of Spiritual Direction: Giving and Receiving Spiritual

Guidance. Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books

Leech, Kenneth. 2001. Soul Friend: Spiritual Direction in the Modern World. Harrisburg,

PA: Morehouse Publishing.

Nouwen, Henri. 2006. Spiritual Direction.  New York, NY: HarperCollins.

May, Gerard G. 1992. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual

Direction. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Moon, Gary W. David G. Benner. 2004. Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls.

Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Phillips, Susan S. 2008. Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction. New

York, NY: Morehouse Publishing.

Reed, Angela H. 2011. Quest for Community: Reclaiming Spiritual Guidance for  

Contemporary Congregations. New York, NY: T&T Clark International.

Tan, Soo-lnn. 2008. Friends in a Broken World. Singapore: Graceworks.

Voon, Choon Khing. 1999. Spiritual Direction in a Malaysian Context: in Search of a

Viable Way Ahead. Donaldson, Indiana: Graduate Theological Foundation.

Wilhoit, James C., Evans B. Howard. 2012. Discovering lectio divina: Bringing Scripture

 into ordinary life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


Contact me

Dr Alex Tang

Associate Professor of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, Monash University Malaysia,

Senior Consultant Paediatrician, Johor Specialist Hospital,

Director, Spiritual Formation Institute,

Director, Kairos Spiritual Formation Ministries,

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Soul Care in MBS

It has been an exhausting but rewarding experience in teaching Soul Care: The Art and Science of Spiritual Direction in an intensive module 27-31 August 2010 at the wonderful campus of the Malaysia Bible Seminari (MBS) in Kuang, Selangor. There were initial apprehensive in the understanding of spiritual direction especially with its emphasis on the dimensions of spiritual experiences. All the students are evangelicals and most are experienced pastors or pastoral workers. Many of them are studying theology in the seminary. It is understandable that spiritual direction with its emphasis of listening, silence, watching for the movement of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God challenges their evangelical Bible-centred framework. I hope that the lectures, lectio divina, small group sessions and practicums helped to relieve some of their anxieties.
Basically the module is designed in such a way that we begin with ourselves and our relationship with God. This includes being aware of ourselves, our needs and frustrations and how we employ filters when we listen to others. We also need to learn to be aware of the movements of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. This come from experiences of listening to and responding. Only then are we able to discern these movements of the Holy Spirit in others. We also have to learn to be open to others and allow them space to process their spiritual quests. This involves trust and patience. Finally only in love do we speak into the lives of each other. Soul Care is the journeying together of two or more souls towards the awareness and enjoyment of God in whom we move, live our daily lives, and have our being, as we rest in His goodness.






"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  


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