Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Assessing Spiritual Practices

Portsmouth Cathedral, UK; April 2017, Geoff W. Sutton

In recent years, researchers have characterized religion and spirituality as ways people find meaning in their lives--that is, religion and spirituality as meaning making systems. It isn't surprising that researchers disagree on a way to define religion and spirituality that encompasses all similar activities. Meanwhile, researchers continue to study various dimensions of religion and spirituality. In this post I will introduce a short scale that might be helpful in research and possibly in a clinical setting. Although it was written to assess Christian Practices, I will suggest how it could be modified.

One way to think about the components of faith is three-dimensional, which includes beliefs, practices, and experiences. A few years ago, a group of us studied Christian counseling to discover what Christian counselors actually did that was different from other counselors. We wanted to get more specific about the identity of Christian counselors--beyond a simple checklist of their affiliation with some large group such as Catholic or Methodist.

As part of our plan to be more specific about spirituality, we created a few measures. One of the measures is a Spiritual Practices Index, which we referred to as Personal Christian Practices in the article (Sutton, Arnzen, & Kelly, 2016).

The wording of three of the four original items clearly applies to the Christian faith. But wording changes may make the index applicable to other faiths. First, I will provide the original index then I will add suggestions for alternate wording.

The full index used in the published article follows. It is presented by asking respondents to rate the items using a 5-point rating scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.  

Please tell us a little about your spiritual practices.
  1. I study the Bible every week.
  2. I pray each day.
  3. I attend church almost every week.
  4. I regularly support Christian ministry
Score the index by adding the values. In our study, the mean was 17.51 and the standard deviation was 2.40. The skew was -1.10, which was acceptable (+/- 1.50). Kurtosis was also acceptable (.81).

Coefficient alpha for our study was adequate (.74). We have used this measure in other studies. Those alpha levels are as follows: .86 (Studies 1 and 2; Sutton, Kelly, Griffin, Worthington, & Dinwiddie, 2018), .84 (Kelly et al., 2018), and .83 (Sutton & Kelly, 2018).

Validity data indicate significant positive correlations with other aspects of spirituality supporting its use as measuring another dimension of the construct, spirituality. Following is a table showing the Pearson Correlation Coefficients for the relationship between the Spirituality Index and four other measures of spirituality.

Index or Measure
Christian Beliefs
Intratextual Fundamentalism Items
Christian Social Values
Christian Service Scale

* p < .01

Learn to read statistics used in counseling and psychology research. Review basic concepts learned in courses on assessment and statistics.

Spiritual Practices Index

A proposed rewording of the Spirituality Practices Index follows. This has not been used in research so if you use it as is or in a modified form, please share the results. The items in either index are free to use for research and teaching purposes. Contact me if you want to use it in a commercial product.

I suggest presenting these asking respondents to rate the items using a 5-point rating scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.  

Please tell us a little about your spiritual practices.

I study sacred texts every week.
I pray each day.
I attend a place of worship almost every week.
I regularly support ministries related to my faith.


The SPI measures a facet of the SELF/ Spiritual Dimension in the SCOPES Model.

Resource Link:  A – Z Test Index


Kelly, H.L., Sutton, G. W, Hicks, L., Godfrey, A. & Gillihan, C. (2018). Factors predicting the moral appraisal of sexual behavior in Christians. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 37, (2), 162-177.

Sutton, G. W. (2017a). Applied statistics: Concepts for counselors. Springfield, MO: Sunflower. Amazon  Paperback ISBN-10: 1521783926, ISBN-13: 978-1521783924

Sutton, G. W. (2017b). Creating surveys: Evaluating programs and reading research. Springfield, MO: Sunflower. Amazon  Paperback ISBN-10: 1522012729  ISBN-13: 978-1522012726

Sutton, G. W., Arnzen, C., & Kelly, H. (2016). Christian counseling and psychotherapy: Components of clinician spirituality that predict type of Christian intervention. Journal of Psychology and Christianity35, 204-214.

Sutton, G.W. & Kelly, H. (2018, April 14). Christian Spirituality and Moral Judgments. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, International Conference, Roanoke, VA. [Manuscript in progress]

Sutton, G. W., Kelly, H., Worthington, E. L. Jr., Griffin, B. J., & Dinwiddie, C. (2018) Satisfaction with Christian Psychotherapy and Well-being: Contributions of Hope, Personality, and Spirituality. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 5 (1), 8-24, doi: 10.1037/scp0000145 

Williamson, W.P., Hood, R. W. Jr., Ahmad, A., Sadiq, M., Y Hill, P.C. (2010). The intratextual fundamentalism scale: cross-cultural application, validity evidence, and relationship with religious orientation and the Big 5 factor markers. Mental Health, Religion & Culture13, 721-747.

Connections and Links to Resources

My Page
My Books   AMAZON
FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
     Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)
     ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)

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