Faith Development - Fowler and Westerhoff

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James Fowler:

James Fowler Faith Development “Stages of Faith”

Fowler’s Stages of Faith:

Fowler’s Stages of Faith Universalizing Ages 40+ Conjunctive Faith Age 30-40 Individuative/Reflective Faith Age 15/18-30 Synthetic/Conventional Faith Age 11-15 Mythical/Literal Faith Age 6-11 Intuitive/Projective Faith Age 2-6 Primal Faith Birth – 2

Primal (birth-2):

Primal (birth-2) Form feelings of trust Care by parents or other care takers provide “preimages” that children develop prior to learning how to talk Application: What is the implication for faith development in children who are abandoned and/or abused?

Intuitive/Projective (age 2-6):

Intuitive/Projective (age 2-6) Active minds utilize imagination Faith is intuitive rather than logical Symbols, stories, and other traditions provide meaning Application: What is the implication for parents at this time? What is the implication for the role of the church?

Mythical/Literal (age 6-11):

Mythical/Literal (age 6-11) Image of God is in transition No longer confusing make-believe and reality Identity is formed through ritual Conforming to expectations of others Application: How do we assist children reared in non-traditional households? How can we assist in building a positive identity?

Synthetic/Conventional (Age 11-15):

Synthetic/Conventional (Age 11-15) Onset of abstract thinking allows deeper reflection Develop their own faith, personal story and relationship with God Application: How do we assist young teens in reconciling the inconsistencies? How do we engage them in meaningful ways to keep them in faith?

Individuative/Reflective (age 15/18-30):

Individuative/Reflective (age 15/18-30) New identity emerges apart from others Reflecting on their past experiences and critiquing their faith community. Application: How do provide safe spaces for young adults to wrestle with issues of identity?

Conjunctive (age 30-40):

Conjunctive (age 30-40) Awareness of limitations No longer certain of early judgments as they recognize truth is complex Feeling of interdependence as neither young nor old Application: What happens when people become Christians at this age?

Universalizing (Age 40+):

Universalizing (Age 40+) See the world through the eyes of others Few have been recognized as achieving this stage: MLK, Ghandi, Mother Theresa Application: What is distinct about this stage that can inspire others toward growing in faith?


Summary Faith is progressive not something that is achieved, but a process of becoming.

John Westerhoff III:

John Westerhoff III Four Faith Styles

Experienced faith:

Experienced faith Faith comes through caregivers

Affiliated Faith:

Affiliated Faith Faith developed through community and relationships based on experiences

Searching/Struggling Faith:

Searching/Struggling Faith Time of reflection and questioning the origin of their faith

Owned Faith:

Owned Faith Individual chooses to enter into a covenental relationship with God

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