How to Measure Spiritual Commitment

by Albert L. Winseman, D. Min.
Religion and Social Trends Editor

One of the key pillars of the spiritual health of any congregation is the level of spiritual commitment among its members. Spiritual commitment reflects a personal depth of faith and is manifested in both attitudes and behaviors. George Gallup Jr., first began studying spiritual commitment several years ago and published his findings in his 1992 book, The Saints Among Us.

Using the discoveries in The Saints Among Us as a jumping off point, The Gallup Organization recently researched the spiritual commitment level of members of American faith communities of all types -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. As a result of this research, Gallup identified nine items that best measure individual spiritual commitment. These items include four attitudes and five behaviors:

Spiritually Committed Attitudes

  • My faith is involved in every aspect of my life.
  • Because of my faith, I have meaning and purpose in my life.
  • My faith gives me an inner peace.
  • I am a person who is spiritually committed.

Spiritually Committed Behaviors

  • I spend time in worship or prayer every day.
  • Because of my faith, I have forgiven people who have hurt me deeply.
  • My faith has called me to develop my given strengths.
  • I will take unpopular stands to defend my faith.
  • I speak words of kindness to those in need of encouragement.

Copyright © 2001 The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ. All rights reserved.

In a 2001 survey of U.S. adults who are members of faith communities*, Gallup asked respondents to rate each of the above nine items on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree." The chart below indicates the percentage of "5" (strongly agree) responses to each of the nine items. Interestingly, 66% of respondents strongly agreed that their faith gave them an inner peace (the highest-ranking response), while only 44% strongly agreed that their faith was involved in every aspect of their lives (the lowest-ranking response).

Beginning next week, I will consider each of the nine items of spiritual commitment -- with an eye toward the role that item plays in the life of the congregation and how religious leaders can use an understanding of each to improve the congregation's dynamics.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 729 adult members of a church, synagogue, or other religious faith community, aged 18 and older, conducted October through November 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3.6%.

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