Religion and Social Trends

"I Am a Person Who Is Spiritually Committed."

This is the fifth in a series of articles examining Gallup's nine items of spiritual commitment.

The nine items that Gallup has discovered best measure the spiritual commitment of individuals in congregations (see "How to Measure Spiritual Commitment" in Related Items) can be divided into those describing attitudes (four items) and those describing behaviors (five items). Last week, I explored the third attitudinal component: "My faith gives me an inner peace." (See Related Items.) This week, I'll explore the fourth attitudinal component, "I am a person who is spiritually committed."

The graph below shows responses to this question on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 being "strongly agree."*

Gallup's benchmark survey on spiritual commitment, conducted last November, indicated that more than half of the members of American faith communities say that they are spiritually committed. These results are in line with recent findings from a study conducted by the Princeton Religion Research Center (PRRC) in conjunction with Gallup. According to a PRRC report titled "Religion in America 2002": "The uptrend in the percentage seeking spiritual growth (now at eight in 10) started in the early 1990s, as the new century approached and continues today unabated."** A 1998 Gallup poll reported that 82% of Americans feel the need to experience spiritual growth***. Moreover, according to data from a January 2002 Gallup poll^, 50% of Americans say they are "religious" and an additional 33% say they are "spiritual but not religious."

However, there is a big difference between the results of the single item asking respondents for their level of agreement with the statement, "I am a person who is spiritually committed," and overall combined results for the nine spiritual commitment items on Gallup's Spiritual Engagement Index. The following chart shows the percentage of people who answered "strongly agree" to the individual item, "I am a person who is spiritually committed" compared to those who answered "strongly agree" to all nine spiritual commitment items.

The numbers point to a disparity between what congregation members think about their own spiritual commitment and how they actually live out that commitment. When asked directly if they are spiritually committed, a majority (56%) strongly agrees. But when asked to rate a series of nine attitudinal and behavioral items that predict spiritual commitment when put together, only 17% strongly agree with every item.

Key Points

Be clear about the expectations you have for your members' spiritual commitment. Define the qualities of a spiritually committed member of your faith community. Give your members feedback and ask them to "hold up the mirror" so that they can drive their own progress toward becoming spiritually committed. If you are not clear about your expectations and give appropriate feedback on how to become spiritually committed, members will make up their own expectations -- which may not be consistent with what you want to see in your congregation.

The SE25 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 2001. All rights reserved.

*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%.

**Results are based on telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults each, carried out by The Gallup Poll, The Gallup Organization and the George H. Gallup International Institute.

***Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 20-22, 1998. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin for error is ±3%.

^Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 11-14, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin for error is ±3%.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/6097/Person-Who-Spiritually-Committed.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030