Today’s College Students Fit one of Five Spirituality Types, by Todd W. Hall, PhD

Part 4 of series The Spiritual Lives of Christian College Students. The fourth of five reflections on the spirituality of students attending Christian colleges based upon Todd’s national research project, informed by Spiritual Transformation Inventory (STI) data from over 5,000 students attending CCCU and ABHE colleges and universities.

by Todd W. Hall, PhD

There is no “one size fits all” spiritual growth plan. Every student has unique needs. While colleges and universities cannot tailor spiritual growth programs for every individual, they can start to identify groups of students with different needs.

The Spiritual Transformation Inventory (STI) and the national data from this project help us move in this direction. We found five different types or groups in terms of their pattern of scores on the 22 scales. This suggests that we need to identify these groups so that we can tailor spiritual formation plans to their needs.

Type 1 – Secure and Engaged (21.4 percent of the sample) students are quite spiritually mature for this stage. This group was highly secure in their sense of connection to God and highly spiritually engaged in practices and community. We need to further strengthen these mature students and encourage them towardleadership.

Type 2 – Distant yet Engaged (15.2 percent). These students report a distant connection with God, and were moderately engaged in spiritual practices and community. We need to help this group develop relationships in which they feel seen and known to address their distant connection to God.

Type 3 – Moderate Security and Engagement (25 percent). This group reported an average degree of security with God and spiritual engagement. We need to help these students find their strengths.

Type 4 – Anxious and Disengaged (27.2 percent).  This group was highly insecure in their connection to God (mainly anxious) and moderately low in their spiritual engagement. This group needs help with developing what attachment theory calls a “secure base”; that is, a deep, gut-level sense that caregivers are consistently responsive to their emotional and relational needs.

Type 5 – Insecure and Disengaged (11.2 percent). This group was highly insecure (both distant and anxious connection to God) and very low in their engagement in practices and community. This group is the most spiritually immature, and represents a high-risk group for emotional problems and dropout. We need to proactively identify these students and begin mentoring them at the beginning of their freshman year.

Knowing that our student spirituality is not monolithic but varied, we can better develop relationships, classroom approaches, co-curricular and even curricular programming that better meets the unique needs of each and every student.

Next:  Relationships, Theology and Suffering: How Students Grow Spiritually