For seven weeks before Christmas I invited Sunday worshippers to help us consider what spiritual practices characterized four different levels of Christian faith development. The four levels were arbitrarily labeled as Beginner, Explorer, Apprentice and Coach.

A Beginner was defined as a person who was just starting to learn what it means to be a Christ-follower. An Explorer was defined as someone who was growing in their relationship with Christ. An Apprentice was defined as someone who was close to Christ and a Coach was defined as someone whose life was Christ-centered. A Coach would be expected to be capable of helping others learn new, more advanced spiritual practices.

Response forms were distributed for seven different areas of spiritual practices: 1) prayer, 2) Bible study, 3) worship, 4) giving, 5) service, and 6) witness. These include the five commitments made by members in the United Methodist Church (to support the church by their prayers, presence gifts, service and witness) plus the foundational practice of Bible study.

It is important to remember that  a person may qualify as a Coach in one area of spiritual practice like prayer and still be a Beginner in another spiritual practice such as giving. The important thing is that each person is able to identify what are the “next steps” to help him or her grow in each area.

Individuals may disagree about specific level of faith development that a particular spiritual practices represents, but the hope is that as a whole the congregation will be able to rank order all the spiritual practices, so that we are able to describe the four levels of faith development with a set of spiritual practices that are generally agreed to represent increasing levels of spiritual maturity.

For example, within the spiritual practice of giving, someone who gives a little something whenever he or she attends worship might be characterized as a Beginner in the practice of giving, while someone who regularly gives a fixed percentage of his or her regular income (e.g., 5% or 10%) might be characterized as a Coach in the practice of giving. The January-February 2018 issue of the church newsletter will include a table of the results to help you look for your own “next steps.”