At The Mission School of Ministry, I have been guiding a group of students through the process of developing their own rule of life. We began with a survey of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, exploring the classical spiritual disciplines of the faith. Then we read up on The Rule of Saint Benedict (RB), and also Saint Francis’ rule for his third order.
Why a Rule?
A rule defines the values and priorities that an individual or a group endeavors to live into and be formed by. The rules of Francis and Benedict focus on spirituality as well as day to day living within the group or community context, in particular how we respond to the other person and how we care for needs. This expresses the importance of the place of others in our individual journey of spiritual growth and maturity.
All of the RB support a life of obedience, stability, and conversion; the three vows of a Benedictine. Poverty, chastity, and obedience comprise the vows Franciscans live into. Both of their rules of spiritual disciplines support these values and way of life.
When exploring a Rule of Life we must ask: Where do I want to grow? What would truly be a discipline to live into to make progress of some sort? What requires sacrificial development on my part? Each of us have disciplines that come much more naturally to us, but which are more difficult yet necessary for growth?
Here are a few areas the students focused on in developing a Rule of Life:
Silence- Including meditation and solitude, to personally interact with God and to know myself as his creature, and pay attention to the Holy Spirit.
Study- Including reading, thinking, and writing. The intent is to be washing my mind with the kingdom of God, and to grow in knowledge of who God is, what the gospel is, and what the kingdom is.
Build Community – With an inclusive weekly meal where all participate in making and sharing the meal. Praying through the Lord’s Prayer together, and also speaking words of encouragement and hope over one another.
Retreat – Intentionally spending at least ten minutes a day in meditation on scripture, no technology, no noise, externally or internally, redirecting my thoughts each time they are distracted, and also retreating from society in some capacity, at least biannually to recharge for serving the church.
Service – Practicing a daily attitude of, “How do I serve God and others today well?” I want to intentionally go out of my way, as led by the Spirit, to befriend and serve someone outside of what is considered my “mandatory” ministry.
Creativity – Seeking new ways to connect my heart to my mind and using my hands to make it come to fruition, finding solace and rest in his Spirit by making something within my means, such as gardening, knitting, or some other act of creativity.
Value others- Make time to be available, to coach and mentor, to listen and encourage others along their journey.
Develop a life of disciplines- keep desires in check and life in balance by practicing disciplines. Seek God’s presence and wisdom. And also Living a life for health, exercise, self control and balance.
Prayer- develop a multifaceted approach to one’s prayer life with fixed hour prayer, corporate and individual, truly seeking to live into a life of prayer.
Order – To be intentional with time so to keep on top of housework and tasks, to provide more order and head-heart space and time for important things.
Not Law or Death, but Life
A rule of life can bring enrichment to your life, and to the lives of those you are mentoring. Anything can become death when it becomes law, so avoid making your rule of life a law, and avoid seeing inconsistency as a failure. Instead, try to grow daily in consistency and in your discipline. As Saint Francis de Sales wrote in Introduction To The Devout Life. published in 1609:
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” – Francis de Sales
Father Dale Hall began ministry in 1987 at Calvary Baptist Church, in Rome, Georgia, while in college. He’s been a social worker and crisis counselor, as well as a Vineyard pastor. Now he’s an Anglican priest serving at The Mission, in Chattanooga, where he leads several ministries, and lives with his wife Kimberly. They have two sons and a daughter in law.