There is a tension involved in the assessment of Spiritual formation.
- Spiritual formation is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. What God is doing is often unseen, and is ultimately under His control. Therefore, the Christian school must be cautious about making judgements about the Spiritual formation of students.
Christian schools value Spiritual formation. Mission, vision and core value statements often highlight the desire to see students grow as disciples of Christ during their time at school, and considerable resources are devoted to programs and practices to this end. Therefore, assessment of Spiritual formation is a matter of integrity and stewardship for the Christian school.
These realities need to be held in dynamic tension with each other in whatever process is used for Spiritual formation assessment, so that neither is promoted at the expense of the other. As a school determines their own, unique approach to Spiritual formation assessment, a few principles can help keep this healthy tension alive.
- Focus on things that the school is responsible for - that is, the programs and practices that the school uses to promote Spiritual formation. We should ask “Are these programs and practices having the impact that we desire?” rather than “Are these students responding in the way we expect?” or making judgements about an individual student’s spiritual life.
While the work of God in a believer’s heart is unseen, it often does become visible through repeated patterns of behaviour. Ask questions about what the consistent, observable patterns of behaviour of students might suggest about the Spiritual climate of the school and what might be impacting that climate.
Intentionally seek input from all sectors of the school community on these questions, and in a variety of forms (qualitative and quantitative), in order to counteract blind spots and distortions. Listening to the voice of the students themselves is particularly important.
Remain modest and humble about the results of Spiritual formation assessment, acknowledging that there is a degree of subjectivity in any conclusions that are made.
Make Spiritual formation assessment an ongoing process, so that conclusions can be tested. The impact of any changes in programs or practices made as a result of one assessment cycle are evaluated in the next.