Synergy: Riverside's Assessment Tools for Spiritual Maturity
When we evaluate where a person is spiritually, we are NOT speaking about value! Every person is valuable and loved at Riverside! We are simply speaking to usefulness and readiness. There are two tools we use to assess the spiritual level of maturity: Jim Putman's "5 Stages" and Riverside staff's simple rating tool. These are only tools, and they are not perfect, but they are extremely helpful in getting an idea of where a person may be in the spiritual maturity.
Putman's "5 Stages" Tool
The first tool we use is from Jim Putman’s, “Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples”. It includes five distinct stages of spiritual growth. We listen for a "phrase from the stage" to help us discern where a person may be spiritually. Here are the 5 stages in Putman's own words:
Stage 1: In the first stage, a person is spiritually dead, meaning that he or she has not been born again. This stage is characterized by the word unbelief. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we were all dead in our trespasses and sins. Without Christ, we are separated from God, who is life, so when we are separated from Him, we will eventually die a physical death. But this is not all. Without Christ, we are dead spiritually as well. Revelation 20:14 speaks of the second death, which will be experienced by all who enter eternity without receiving Christ.
Born Again: When we accept the good news—salvation through Christ—we are saved. At the moment of salvation, we are born again (see John 3:3-5). The Holy Spirit moves in, and we start the process of growth as a spiritual man or woman. Yes, we will still die physically (until Jesus returns), but we will not experience eternal separation from God.
Stage 2: Every new Christian starts out as a spiritual infant. As new believers, they are excited and eager to learn. They know something has changed, and they may even experience a spiritual high, which is great. Their unsaved friends often notice the difference, and infants are quick to announce their new faith to all who will listen. However, in many ways they tend to make messes. They are oblivious to what this new world is all about. They are characterized by the word ignorance. They might know many things, but they are ignorant of the rules in their new spiritual life.
Stage 3: As they grow, spiritual infants move into the spiritual child stage of development. At this point, they understand the basic language of faith. They can be excited about their faith. and in many ways they are innocent and cute. However, they still act childishly and are often rebellious and self-centered in many ways. Spiritual children tend to do what they should only when they are rewarded or threatened with some kind of punishment. They may do the right thing, but it's usually to avoid an outcome they dislike or to get something they want.
Stage 4: As spiritual children grow up, they mature into the spiritual young adult stage. At this stage, they have grown tremendously from where they started. They are eager to serve, think independently, and look much like adults; however, they still have much to learn about responsibility and about how to care for the spiritual needs of others. They are zealous for God and can be characterized as being “God focused" and “other-centered.” They are becoming intentional or strategic about sharing their faith and will see people converted, but they are not yet able to reproduce disciples who can make disciples. They serve intentionally but don’t make disciples intentionally. They want their independence, and in some cases they should have it, but they need continued coaching/parenting.
Stage 5: In the final stage of spiritual development. We become spiritually mature enough to reproduce disciples —we become spiritual parents. I am purposely using the term parent here rather than adult. As Christians we are called to make disciples—to do our part to reproduce our faith in another, Adults are able to reproduce but that does not mean they are reproducing. I know many Christians who have the ability to be spiritual parents but don't make it a priority. Though they would like to call themselves mature, I would say that they are not. Why? Because they have not prioritized their lives around the mission or Christ, which is to make disciples. Just as the human race continues because we physically reproduce, so Christianity continues on this planet because Christians spiritually reproduce or make disciples.
Note: I want to emphasize that assessment is not a way of designating one believer as more valuable than another. It's very important that disciple-makers and disciples understand the difference between value and usefulness. While a mature Christian is more useful to the purpose or the Lord and the church than a spiritual infant or child, he or she is not more valuable.
Riverside's Assessment Tool
In addition to Putman's tool, we also employ a simple rating tool based on 17 categories.
The scale is 1-5: 1= NO, 2= doubtful/not likely, 3= possibly/maybe, 4= likely, 5= YES. We add the scores up like a golf scorecard. The higher the score, the better.
(NOTE: the ratings are not perfect - they are subjective; based on what is often a limited relationship with an individual.)
Here is a brief explanation about the categories:
Christian - are they a believer?
Natural Leader - do they demonstrate natural leadership ability anywhere in their life?
Spiritual Leader - are they leading spiritually anywhere? (family, small group, children's ministry, etc)
Committed - do they demonstrate commitment to conviction, to Riverside, to Christian principles, etc?
Giving - are they giving to Riverside?
Serving - are they or have they served in the past consistently?
Attender - are they committed to regularly attending Riverside? a small group? connection services? events?
Small Group - do they attend a small group? do they lead? participate? consistent? is biblical fellowship important to them? men's, women's, community groups, youth, etc.
Successful - are they successful in life, business, family, career, finances, etc.?
Discipling - are they investing in others intentionally?
Potential - does this person have potential to grow into leadership and maturity?
Character - is this person honest, hard working, have integrity, trustworthy, deceitful, etc?
Maturity - is this person childish, immature, irresponsible or do they demonstrate a level of maturity in life (hold a job, pay bills, dependable, etc)
Available - could you schedule a meeting today? are they hard to get in touch with? hard to meet with on a regular basis? over-scheduled?
Teachable - do they respond to instruction? or do they already "know it all"?
Passive or Active - passive = 1, active = 5. in family, in marriage, in church, community, career, etc.
Assessment/Stage - this is from the Putman discipleship book - 1=spiritually dead, 2=infant (ignorance), 3=child (self-centeredness), 4=young adult (service, God-centeredness, other-centeredness), 5=parent (intentional, reproducing, strategic, mature)
We encourage everyone to work through these assessment tools!