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). A large scale field study is underway. So far, more than 200 have completed the online assessment. Plans are to recruit participants from Europe, Canada and Africa in 2015.
Several constructs (e.g., forgiveness, gratitude, love, spirituality, 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 designed to integrate psychology and Christian theology in the assessment of spiritual growth and development. The spiritual journeys of Augustine (Niño, 2008) and St. Francis of Assisi (Peck, 1931) offer examples of the long history behind the quest for spiritual growth. In his aptly named work, My Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis (1954) focused the Christian on the life of Christ. In the last century, Bonhoeffer (1974) explained the call to discipleship as an “attachment to his person” and stated, “Discipleship means adherence to Christ” (63). In this tradition, we viewed discipleship as a total commitment of the whole person. Consequently, the inventory was named, Discipleship DynamicsTM (DD).
Psychological scientists have made considerable advances in the development of instruments to measure religious and spiritual constructs (Hill, 2013; Hill & Pargament, 2003). Recent explorations of spirituality as a relational concept are particularly relevant to this project (Davis, Hook, Van Tongeren, Gartner, & Worthington, E. L., Jr. (2012). From a theological perspective, scholars like Moberg (1972) opined that conservative Christians had reacted to liberal theology by ignoring the importance of meeting human needs. In passionate language he observed that evangelicals: “overemphasized man’s horizontal relationships (man to man), while conservatives accentuated the vertical (man to God) and forgot the horizontal. Each group read different parts of the Bible….The sharp polarization that developed during the conflict made it politically impossible to remain both an evangelical and a social gospeler, and emotional involvements prevented Christians from recognizing the fallacies of being impaled upon the horns of a false dilemma”(Moberg, 1972, p. 34).
We hope that the foregoing overview provides readers with a sense that there are converging trends in theology and psychology that may be integrated into a relational spirituality, which promotes individual spiritual growth as a function of an individual’s relationship with God and with others. We now turn to specific psychological inquiries relevant to the formation of the five domains of DD. Bonhoeffer’s reference to attachment and adherence bears a strong resemblance to attachment theory. Following Bowlby’s (1969) work in attachment, researchers have explored attachment to God (e.g., Hall et al., 2009; Kilpatrick, 2012) and found conceptual (Sutton & Mittelstadt, 2012) and empirical support (e.g., Beck & McDonald, 2004) for the value of attachment theory in understanding Christian spirituality. Perspectives on the link between loving God and loving others have been offered by psychological scientists (e.g., Exline, 2012) and sociologists (e.g., Poloma, 2012). Others have found positive associations among measures of hope, attachment, forgiveness, compassion, and spirituality (e.g., Sutton, Jordan, & Worthington, 2014). Attachment theory and Bonhoeffer’s notion of discipleship provides a theoretical basis for two domains of the current inventory, Spiritual Formation and Healthy Relationships. Research on hope (Snyder et al., 1991), self-control (Zell & Baumeister, 2013), and gratitude (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) is long established and provides a basis, along with other concepts, for items assessing the domain of Personal Wholeness. Although vocational counseling has been a mainstay of counseling psychology for decades, only recently has research examined links between vocation, meaning, and the concept of calling in Christian spirituality (Phillips et al., 2011) thus, we examine the viability of Vocational Clarity as a fourth dimension of spirituality. The final dimension, Economics and Work, explores how one contributes to and benefits from ethical and creative work. A theology of work has been developed by several theologians including DD contributor, Charlie Self (2012).
After reviewing the literature and discussing what a holistic approach might mean, Mostert (2014) and his team concluded that five broad domains captured at least a substantial portion of what it means to function as a disciple. The five domains are: Spiritual Foundations (SF), Personal Wholeness (PW), Healthy Relationships (HR), Vocational Clarity (VC) and Economics and Work (EW). Following is a description of the outcomes associated with each domain.
Item development. Expert contributions were sought from theologians, psychologists, and business educators at Evangel University. Some items reflecting psychological constructs were taken from the International Personality Item Pool (http://ipip.ori.org/). Within each domain, 10-12 items were selected or written to assess eight behavioral outcomes that could operationally define each domain. Test items were written as statements with instructions for participants to rate them on a scale of 0 (“not at all like me”) to 7 (“just like me”).
Participants Volunteers were recruited from seminary students and churches to take various sections of the test item pool, which was placed online. The sample size varied but most items were rated by a minimum of 139 participants with many items rated by more than 200. The number of people rating items in each outcome is provided in the Appendix.
Materials A 12-14 page personalized report, The Discipleship Assessment, was created to provide feedback to participants based on their quartile scores. Higher scores reflected a high degree of progress within the outcome. The feedback includes a description of the outcome with suggestions for further development.
Results and Discussion Items for the final form of DD were selected on the basis of high correlations with each of the 40-outcomes. Descriptive statistics and coefficient alphas were calculated for each outcome and are presented in the Appendix. All alpha values were within acceptable ranges (above .60) with most values above .75. Based on these findings, a 200-item instrument has been placed online. The results of the Pilot Study were also used to modify the number of outcomes within the five domains. As noted above, feedback was based on using a person’s quartile scores. This seemed more useful to individuals who would then be able to track progress toward personal goals. Although we calculated descriptive statistics for the outcomes (See the Appendix), a strict normative approach was not linked to the feedback. There is one exception. The instrument includes one 10-item subscale that measures motivational distortion. Feedback for this outcome used a normative approach (alpha = .90; M = 18.7, SD = 5.99). Motivational distortion is not associated with the five domains.
Field Study A large scale field study is underway. So far, more than 200 people have completed the online assessment. Plans are in place to recruit participants from Europe, Canada and Africa in 2015. Initial feedback from clergy and lay leaders has been positive both for the survey as well as the accompanying feedback report. Research plans include assessing the psychometric structure of the five domains and 40 outcomes, computing reliability values for all subscales, and modifying items as may be indicated. We hope that graduate students and scholars will contribute to ongoing research with reliability and validity studies. Finally, plans also include modification and expansion of the feedback report by providing links to online and other resources relevant to spiritual growth within the domains.
The original project development team included the following members: Johan Mostert (Ph.D. Professor of Community Psychology), Deborah Gill (Ph.D. Professor of Biblical Studies and Exposition), Melody Palm (Psy. D. Professor of Counseling Psychology), Gary Black (Ph.D. Now Chair, Department of Advanced Studies, Azusa Pacific University), Andrea Mostert (M. Psych., Pre-Primary), Jan Gill (Professional Architect), and Susan Black (M.Div.,LPC). For more information on Discipleship Dynamics, contact the first author, Johan Mostert at MostertJ@evangel.edu More information is also available on the website. http://discipleshipdynamics.com/
|Domain with Outcome Scales||N||Alpha||M||SD|
|A Spiritual Foundations|
|A1 Love the Word||212||0.823||13.85||5.47|
|A2 Pray w/o ceasing||212||0.864||13.62||5.38|
|A3 Voice of God||212||0.807||16.69||5.93|
|B Personal Wholeness|
|B4 Self discipline||206||0.765||14.11||4.68|
|C Healthy Relationships|
|Domain with Outcome Scales||N||Alpha||M||SD|
|D Vocational Clarity|
|D1 Mission at Work||139||0.835||12.59||5.39|
|D2 Sense of calling||140||0.904||11.91||6.51|
|D3 Insight gifts and talents||211||0.827||13.8||5.5|
|D4 Mission w Spouse||164||0.938||12.74||6.98|
|D6 Creative innovation||211||0.834||13.67||5.23|
|D8 Common good||213||0.76||16.8||5.45|
|E Economics and Work|
|E1 Dignity of Labor||140||0.754||11.49||4.81|
|E1 Dignity of Labor||140||0.754||11.49||4.81|
|E2 Marketplace ethics||140||0.741||10.71||4.85|
|E3 Work economics||112||0.668||12.32||4.17|
|E4 Asset to Employer||139||0.771||9.71||3.36|
|E6 Manage org's resources||140||0.712||9.6||3.4|
|E7 Biblical Holism||212||0.725||14.8||4.46|