When the Academy began in 1983, a clear decision was made to focus on the broader and more comprehensive area of Christian spiritual formation rather than to develop a training module in spiritual direction. There were several reasons for this decision. Spiritual direction training centers, such as the Shalem Institute, were springing up around the country. The Upper Room saw no need to compete directly with these efforts. Additionally, some of the spiritual direction programs seek an interfaith audience; leaders from The Upper Room felt a call to resource the Church and its leaders specifically in terms of the Christian faith tradition.
Over the years the wisdom of this decision has been confirmed. Some come to the Academy wondering whether they are called to the ministry of spiritual direction; the Academy helps them to make this discernment. Others come knowing they are called to become spiritual directors but with the awareness that their own background regarding Christian spiritual formation is very limited. And some of those who come to the Academy have already begun a ministry of spiritual direction but now know they need to broaden and deepen their own understanding and support system.