- It is a process over time, not a single event;
- It is contextual and thereby influences and is influenced by a matrix of relationships, expectations, and situations;
- Factors in the transformation process are multiple, interactive, and cumulative.
- Each stage is not (or should not be) a stopping point on the journey, more a recognisable part of the continuum; each stage provides the foundation for the next;
- The greatest number of people are at the context stage, and the number reduces at each stage towards transformation;
- People can step forward as well as backward, even after reaching transformation;
- Although these stages describe a more usual journey, they can be transposed or omitted completely.
- Their history
- Families, friends, communities and other people they come into contact with
- Their homes and local environment
- Activities they are involved in
- Media they are exposed to and consume
- Crisis (personal, community or the wider world)
- Transition points in people’s lives, including life events
- Encounters with other people
- Encounters with church
- Seasonal events
This style of engagement has a female bias. It involves building relationships with other Christians, opening the opportunity to be discipled by others.
This style of engagement involves practicing being a Christian – going to church, prayer, Bible engagement, small group activity - whatever is relevant in the individual’s context.
This style of engagement has a male bias. It is often self-motivated and done largely in isolation with minimal direct influence from the church or other Christians.
Understanding Faith Journeys
God with us.
The 2018 Faith Journeys research, conducted by 9DOT for the Church of England, explores how people become aware of God’s presence, are attracted to it, respond to it and are ultimately transformed by it. These transformed individuals are followers of Jesus Christ, sharing the love of God to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, thereby transforming the world.
The mission of the Church of England is to nurture those faith journeys.
In this article we have drawn out some of the highlights from the research.
Each faith journey is unique and usually complex, with multiple influences, motivations and barriers.
Understanding that Faith Journeys are unique and complex, the research did identify six common stages (detailed below).
A few important points about these stages:
As people journey through life their worldview is shaped by their context. This context will be continually changing, particularly in the early years of life. The context of someone’s life will include:
The church and the Christian faith are usually present somewhere in the context of people’s lives, to a greater or lesser extent, and will influence their worldview. Most people, particularly the young, will define themselves as having ‘no religion’ as they do not, and have no desire to, participate in worship. At the same time we know that most people pray and many are looking for more meaning in their lives. We also know that people are attracted to and transformed by experiencing God’s love for the world, through the actions of churches and Christians.
At this first stage, the church needs to be present in people’s lives.
All research on faith journeys shows that it is most important to be present in the lives of children and adolescents since this is when worldviews of church and faith tend to be formed. These views are then carried through their lives, unless the context changes. If a young person develops a strong personal faith, it is likely to be a foundation throughout their lives. As well as having a presence in people’s lives, the church should actively optimise every opportunity to make that presence a positive influence and generate positive memories.
There is often a catalyst that stimulates someone to re-shape their worldview, which triggers faith journey progress.
These triggers could be anything but common catalysts are:
The church needs to be aware of these catalytic moments and recognise the potential in every opportunity to nurture faith journeys
At some point, an individual may take a more active interest in the Christian faith.
This initial engagement could take many forms, depending on the person’s context, any particular catalyst and the styles of engagement that are relevant/accessible/available.
It is important for this initial engagement to be positive and nurturing.
A negative experience, or even an experience which fails to nurture, can take people back to the context stage, sometimes delaying active engagement for many years or even a lifetime
At some point after a positive initial engagement with the Christian faith, there is usually a period of intentional activity which involves behavioural change. These individuals are often searching for meaning and purpose and are particularly attracted by seeing the love of God in practice.
Research has shown that there are three main styles of engagement:
The Church of England needs to be active and intentional in inviting engagement.
The church needs to offer a range of ways to engage, nurturing faith in different styles. This will allow individuals to explore faith in ways that will lead them to find purpose and meaning, in ways that are most likely to lead to commitment and transformation.
Following a period of active engagement, an individual may come to the stage where they are confident with their faith and feel they belong to a Christian community, or want to more activelybelong to a community.
Depending on the context, there is often a public declaration of faith at this stage.
The individual should also feel confident in talking to others about their faith.
There needs to be a strong personal relationship with the living God, that can be sustained without the relationship with the local church.
Belonging needs to be to The church, as well as A church. It is important to continue nurturing and discipling people beyond this stage.
The transformed individual becomes an active follower of Jesus Christ and works constantly for God’s kingdom to come on earth, thereby helping to transforming the world.
Those fully transformed can be described as Christlike.
When a person has been transformed there is usually a strong desire to be Christlike, and there is a need to disciple, nurture and release these transformed individuals in order that their God-given talents are discerned and used well.
Research has shown that as the desire to be active is strong, if they are not nurtured and used well in their local context they may become disillusioned and either step backwards or move elsewhere.