Editor’s Note: Today’s post provides an excerpt from a new report from ACSI Research called The Flourishing Faith Index: Measuring Biblical Worldview and Spiritual Formation in Christian Schools. You can find the full report here.
In what ways and to what extent does spiritual formation take place in Christian schools? Which practices are most strongly related to promoting spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in students? Following the groundbreaking work of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) in developing the industry-standard Flourishing School Culture Instrument (FSCI), many of our member schools raised questions as to whether it was possible to develop a similar survey instrument for understanding and measuring spiritual formation and biblical worldview development. In 2022, ACSI Research sought to answer these questions through new research on spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in Christian schools by developing and validating a new research tool—the Flourishing Faith Index (FFI).
Survey items were developed based on findings from an extensive review of relevant prior research and literature. The literature synthesis surveyed over 230 scholarly articles, reports, and books regarding spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in the home, church, and Christian school. This review guided the survey item development and factor discovery process. In total, ACSI Research tested 764 discrete variables across seven different constituent groups: students; parents; alumni; teachers; leaders/administrators; support staff; and board members. In the Fall of 2022, nearly 10,000 survey responses were collected from these groups, representing 33 Christian schools of diverse size and geographic location.
Data analysis for the instrument accomplished three goals. First, reliability and validity were tested for FFI items to produce a final subset of the original pre-validated questions, resulting in a psychometrically sound instrument. Second, the statistical power behind the FFI construction and analysis, particularly linkages to outcomes, enables the instrument to have strong, statistically significant, and economically meaningful associations with important markers of spiritual flourishing. And finally, the validated constructs identified through FFI data analysis were mapped onto a research-based model of spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in Christian schools—the Flourishing Faith Model (FFM).
The FFM clusters the validated constructs for all seven survey groups into six domains of flourishing in two tiers. The inner ”Flourishing Faith Core” maps faith in three dimensions: Head; Heart; and Hands. The outer ”Biblical Worldview & Spiritual Formation Ring” maps spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in three analogical dimensions: Intellectual; Nurturing; and Practical. These domains provide a compelling and comprehensive picture of the areas in which Christian schools can focus their efforts and resources in order to promote spiritual formation and biblical worldview development in their schools.
Analysis of associations between these domains and markers of spiritual flourishing supported many of the expectations such an instrument would be expected to demonstrate, giving the instrument strong evidence of face validity. For example, students enrolled in a Christian school for a longer period of time scored higher on the propositional scale than did either students enrolled in the medium- or short-term. Similarly, respondents who self-reported being a Christian “for many years” scored higher on nearly all of the validated constructs than did respondents who self-reported recently becoming a Christian or being unsure of their Christian faith. Likewise, construct scores in covenantal schools tended to be higher than those in missional or open-enrollment schools. Finally, many of these findings reinforce those of previous studies and give greater credence to practices like Sabbath-keeping and family devotions.
Forthcoming school-level reports and future FFI administrations will strengthen both the usefulness of findings for schools as we continue to find evidence of associations between the FFI and meaningful spiritual outcomes. Alongside this national report, ACSI will release two additional reports, which use FFI pilot data to describe the administrator and teacher pipeline in Christian schools. In the meantime, this national report unpacks FFI findings and the FFM model for Christian educators which, when taken together, provide measurable signposts on a roadmap toward biblical worldview development and spiritual formation in Christian schools.
To continue reading, please visit the ACSI Thought Leadership and Research webpage and click on “Flourishing Faith.”
About the Authors
Matthew H. Lee, Ph.D., is senior fellow at ACSI, a clinical assistant professor at Kennesaw State University, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, and a non-resident scholar at Baylor University.
Eric W. Price, MPP, is a research associate for ASCI and a risk manager for Christian schools. Before joining ACSI, he served as a research associate for Georgetown University.
Lynn E. Swaner, Ed.D., is chief strategy and innovation officer at ACSI and a Cardus senior fellow. Prior to joining ACSI, she served as a graduate professor of education, academic researcher, and Christian school administrator in New York.