The Seven Habits of Effective Spiritual Nurturers


As a core teacher for the School of the Spirit Ministry’s On Being a Spiritual Nurturer program from 2001–2015, I had ample opportunity to reflect upon the relationship between my practice of spiritual nurture in my local monthly meeting and my teaching of that art. As a teacher, I began any preparation with the questions: How and what am I being taught by my meeting about nurturing? What is God trying to show me about the community, about me, and about God? These questions are the foundation for being in the school of Spirit (traditionally a term for meetings of ministers and elders). That foundation is knowing God is present and active everywhere and seeking to draw us closer all the time.

I hope that the use of the word “God” is not off‐putting. Without a word which points to the great mystery that lies at the heart of the paradox of our human consciousness, I find myself prone to lapsing into the dualism of self and other, and placing the self at the center of our world. Our yearnings point us to the ground of our being, and, for me, “God” is as good a word as any, despite its anthropomorphized use today. Believing in God is to believe in the universe and our small part in it, expressed in our deepest longing for harmony and resolution.

The following seven practices or habits arose when a recent participant in the program asked me to distill the art of spiritual nurture. They are to be lived into over a lifetime; don’t expect that you can turn them on like a light bulb. They are teachers.

I recommend these habits to you and especially to Ministry and Council committees everywhere.

habits11. Acceptance: where one’s community is accepted and loved for what it is and where it is. Hearts, thoughts, and words are minded, so that they are as clear from judgment as possible.

habits2b2. Surrender: the sense that God is placed at the center. It is kept in mind that God’s work is never done, and that each of us, and all humanity, is a work in progress.

habits3b3. Stability: preparing for the understanding that God’s work is a long‐term project, beyond one’s lifespan, and requires a commitment to stay at the table, to not run away, and to be taught; a vow similar to that made by nuns and monks.

habits44. Discipline: found through listening for the yearning in each person, understanding that the yearning is from and for God, and naming that yearning when possible, especially through the veil of high emotions.

habits55. Hospitality: offering and creating spaces where there is an invitation for intimate disclosure.

habits66. Humility: knowing when God is placed at the center, the community being His, not one’s own. It is precious, so care is taken, knowing that each act and word has consequences—some uncomfortable, as the Truth is often disquieting.

habits77. Prayer: committing to pray for and watch over the community.

Michael Green is administrator of the School of the Spirit Ministry and a former core teacher of its program On Being a Spiritual Nurturer. He is a member of Durham (N.C.) Meeting.

Posted in: Features, Spiritual Nurture / Quaker Training

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7 thoughts on “The Seven Habits of Effective Spiritual Nurturers

  1. Barbara Harrison says:

    City & State
    Chestertown, MD
    Number 3 appears to be missing in the online version…

    1. Gail Coyle says:

      City & State
      Philadelphia, Pa.
      It’s been fixed — thanks for the alert!

  2. Forrest Curo says:

    City & State
    San Diego, CA
    If we don’t subscribe, #3 is left as an exercise for the student?

    Hmm, a plus! What would #3 be? — Whee! (Anyone rumpled by me for lack of habit #3 will probably be able to guess the answer.)

    1. Gail Coyle says:

      City & State
      Philadelphia, Pa.
      #3 has been revealed! Thanks, Forrest.

  3. Sharon Doyle says:

    City & State
    Pasadena, Ca
    Hi — our meeting is going through a time of self examination — since you are encouraging sharing this on social media would it be okay if we reprinted it in our newsletter?

    Sharon Doyle
    Orange Grove Monthly Meeting
    Pasadena, Ca

    1. Gail Coyle says:

      City & State
      Philadelphia, Pa.
      Hi Sharon, Thanks for asking! Yes, that would be fine to reprint this piece in the meeting newsletter. Please include the following credit: ©2016 Friends Publishing Corporation, reprinted with permission. Subscribe at http://​www​.friendsjournal​.org/​s​u​b​s​c​r​ibe. Hope it sparks good discussion among Orange Grove Friends!

  4. Susann Estle Cronau says:

    City & State
    Using this as a self‐examination, preaching tool for our small meeting 🙂

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