The Cardus research study examined the role that Christian education at the high school level plays in furthering the spiritual formation of its graduates. The researchers hoped that results would provide a better understanding of how Christian educators can better prepare young people to live out God’s call on their lives and to serve Christ with distinction.
For the purposes of this study, spiritual formation was measured by several guiding questions:
- Has Christian education prepared you to live out your Christian faith in the world?
- Has Christian education prepared you to defend your faith intelligently and share it with others?
- Has Christian education prepared you to function in a diverse world?
- How can Christian education better support your academic and spiritual development?
Researchers surveyed and interviewed students—graduates of both public and Christian high schools—attending an evangelical Christian university in Florida, and found that in this sample:
- students who graduated from private Christian schools were significantly better prepared to defend their faith intellectually than students from public schools;
- students who graduated from public schools were significantly better prepared to function in a diverse world than the private Christian school respondents;
- graduates of Christian high schools did not significantly differ from public school graduates in their responses to the questions of whether or not the high school experience helped them to discover their spiritual gifts and their calling;
- responses to questions about spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, etc.) did not differ significantly between this group of public and Christian high school graduates.
One of the primary tasks during adolescence is the formation of a personal identity—what one researcher calls a dynamic, developmental process that begins at birth and culminates during the adolescent period (Erikson 30). One aspect of identity development involves the exploration and solidification of religious beliefs and values.
For many of the students interviewed, their experience attending a Christian high school helped them solidify the spiritual components of their identities, by challenging them to examine what they believed and why. In addition, their high school experiences prepared them to defend their faith intellectually, and taught them valuable lessons about how to “live” out their faith beyond the classroom.
The value of this solidification of spiritual values could have important implications for Christian high school graduates who choose to attend a public college or university