Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense

12-13-2011

Graduate Advisor

Patricia G. Boyer, Ph.D.

Committee

Michael Bahr

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.

John Lowery, Ph.D.

Abstract

Students are coming to colleges and universities for spiritual fulfillment and have turned to religious student organizations (i.e. Campus Crusade for Christ, Newman Centers, Muslim Student Association, Hillel, etc.) to attain guidance and support. To better understand the spiritual environment religious student organizations have in place, many researchers have used the spiritual development theories of Sharon Parks. Parks theorized that “mentoring communities” need seven environmental elements in order to offer students the greatest chance for spiritual development. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of Parks’ environmental elements adopted by religious student organizations to help support spiritual development. The research questions focused on students’ perceptions of their religious student organization community and determined if a relationship exists between Parks mentoring community’s theory and the members’ spirituality. Using a quantitative research design, two surveys, the Spiritual Well-Being Scale and a self developed questionnaire, were administered to a hundred and seven students in a variety of religious student organizations at three institutions to gain a better understanding of the Parks’ environmental elements within the religious student organization. Specifically, descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, and correlation analysis of the variables were used in this study to address/answer the research questions. The findings revealed that the three religious groups studied (non-Christian, non-Denominational Christian, and Denominational Christian) had similar spiritual well-being scores, resulting from the Spiritual Well-Being Scale. The findings also revealed that high involvement in those religious student organizations did not mean a high spiritual well-being score and that Parks’ theory of a mentoring community was significant for Christian groups but not as helpful for non-Christian religious student organizations. The research concludes with suggestions for future research, especially for non-Christian religious student organizations.

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