Assessing Spiritual Growth and Development in Christian Communities
Johan Mostert, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary & Geoffrey W. Sutton, Evangel University
Mostert, J. and Sutton, G.W. (2015, April). Assessing spiritual growth and development in Christian communities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, International Conference, Denver, Colorado.
Several constructs (e.g., forgiveness, gratitude, love, well-being) within the field of positive psychology (Snyder, Lopez, & Pedrotti, 2011) overlap with dimensions of Christian spirituality and offer researchers, clinicians, and clergy opportunities for collaboration in assessing well-being and growth from a holistic perspective. Previous research has examined the role of strengths assessment in a Christian sample (e.g., Sutton et al., 2011). In this presentation we review initial findings of a five-dimensional instrument, Discipleship DynamicsTM (DD), designed to integrate psychology and Christian theology in the assessment of spiritual growth and development. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi and Thomas à Kempis offer examples of the long history of spiritual journeys. In the last century, Bonhoeffer (1974) explained the call as an “attachment to his person” and states, “Discipleship means adherence to Christ” (63). In this tradition, discipleship is a total commitment of the whole person. Our presentation includes the results of a pilot study. Reviews of the literature and contributions from theologians, psychologists, and business leaders led to the conceptualization of discipleship in five domains: Spiritual Formation (SF), Personal Wholeness (PW), Healthy Relationships (HR), Vocational Clarity (VC), Economics and Work (EW). Contributors suggested items and others were drawn from the International Personality Item Pool (http://ipip.ori.org/). Within each of the five domains, 10-12 items were selected or written to assess eight behavioral outcomes. These were written as statements, which participants could rate on a scale of 0 (“not at all like me”) to 7 (“just like me”). Volunteers from seminary students and churches responded to various sections of the test item pool online. The sample size varied but most items were rated by 140 to 200 participants. A 12-14 page personalized report, The Discipleship AssessmentTM, was created to provide feedback to participants based on their quartile scores. The current version of DD contains 200 items selected on the basis of high correlations with each of the 40-outcomes. Coefficient alpha values were above .60 with most values at or above .75 (Mostert, 2014).
Approximately 2000 individuals have completed the assessment as of December 2022.