Resilience Theory and Christian Formation: A Mixed Methods Study
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Resilience (Personality trait)--Religious aspects--Christianity.
Christian college students--Spiritual life.
This study explored the unexamined relationship between resilience and Christian formation in first-year college students. The study took place at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. A convergent design was used to quantify the variables of spiritual maturity and resilience using pre-existing assessments. Themes from Scripture, precedent literature on resilience, and Christian formation were used to design semi-structured interview questions wherein students were able to articulate and help further understand their lived experiences. A review of precedent literature presented scriptural foundations of Christian formation and biblical-theological resources that postulated a biblical framework for defining resilience. The Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA) was presented as a tool that provides an analysis of discipleship attributes, measurement of spiritual maturation, and suggests areas for needed growth. The precedent literature revealed that a comprehensive psychological definition of resilience theory is absent. Nevertheless, the Inventory of College Students Resilience (ICSR) was proposed as a valid and reliable assessment to measure and enhance personality traits associated with resilience in college students. The final section described points of interaction between higher education, resilience, and Christian formation to address the spiritual and psychological struggles that college students face. The research design consisted of a three-strand approach using quantitative, qualitative, and convergent data analysis. The quantitative strand addressed first-year students’ personal assessment of spiritual maturity attributes and factors of resilience through an instrument that combined the TDA and ICSR. A descriptive analysis was performed and statistical significance was found between the variables of the TDA and ICSR. First-year students at Boyce College exhibited consistent scores in both fields. Seven key themes emerged from the semi-structured interviews during the qualitative strand that were analogous to the proposed biblical framework of resilience—God purposefully assigns and allows adverse events to produce the character in believers that he desires. The testing and refining process is often arduous, yet it is temporary. Believers engage in the process of resilience by maintaining a joyful attitude, trusting, and hoping in God’s future promises despite trials (Rom 5:1–5). The results of such perseverance are more refined and mature believers who are capable of bearing a heavier load than before their encounter with adversity. The convergent strand examined the extent that the qualitative results confirmed the quantitative outcomes. Inconsistencies were identified within the convergent strand that revealed challenges and provided recommendations for the flourishing of spiritual maturation and resilience characteristics. The findings yielded that converging qualitative and quantitative data were able to help further understand the relationship between Christian formation and resilience theory in first-year students at Boyce College. KEYWORDS: Adaptation, adversity, biblical resilience, biblical foundations of resilience, Christian formation, college student development, confessional Christian colleges and universities, discipleship, endurance, first-year student, grit, hardship, higher education, Inventory of College Students Resilience, mentor, perseverance, reciprocating social relationships, relational community, resilience, spiritual formation, spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, spiritual maturity assessment, steadfastness, TDA, Transformational Discipleship Assessment, undergraduate development