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Fowler's Six Stages

Fowler's theory of faith development divides the faith journey into 6 stages. Below is a summary of the key aspects of three of these stages. Stages 1 & 2 are not included as they are generally early childhood and teenage expressions of faith (although for a small minority of adults stage two is their dominant adult expression of faith and life). The final stage is left because only a very small percentage of the population could be described as living out of this stage.

Stage 3:
people are generally committed workers and servers with strong loyalty to their church (christian community). They are acutely tuned to the expectations and judgements of others, often holding deep but unexamined convictions. Often their focus is on relationships with God and the important people of their lives; they feel that they are living up to the expectations of these important others. They have a strong sense of the church as an extended family, there to support each other. Because of this, conflict and controversy are often threatening to them.

Stage 4:
Here the individual begins to emerge from the encircling influence of significant others and groups. They hold themselves, and others, more accountable for their own authenticity, beliefs, actions, and consistency. They no longer tolerate following the crowd; their reference group widens and they are increasingly comfortable with diversity and conflict. They want a leadership that acknowledges and respects their personal positions and allows them to contribute to decision-making. The danger of this stage is that they typically see themselves as self-sufficient, self-starters, self-managing and self-repairing units and it is easy for them to become isolated.

Stage 5:
people who move into Stage 5 begin a new stage where earlier boundaries become less fixed. They become aware of paradox and more able to accept it; allowing different perspectives to co-exist. They resist forced synthesis or reductionist arguments, being more open to ambiguity, mystery, wonder, and apparent irrationalities. People at this stage are less dogmatic, more willing to listen, less inclined to label those who don't agree with them.

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