The Faith Maturity Scale (FMS) is designed to measure “the degree to which a person embodies the priorities, commit­ments, and perspectives characteristic of vi­ brant and life transforming faith, as these have been understood in ‘mainline’ Protes­tant traditions” (p.3). This definition focuses intentionally on values and behavioral mani­festations or indicators of faith rather than exclusively on an assent to particular reli­gious beliefs or tenets. The scale is appropri­ate for use with both adolescents and adults.


The Faith Maturity Scale (FMS) was developed as part of The Na­tional Study of Protestant Congregations (NSPC), which had as its goal the assess­ment of personal faith, denominational loyalty, and their determinants (Benson & Eklin, 1990). This study involved 11,000 adolescents and adults from six Protestant denominations: (a) Christian Church, Disci­ples of Christ (CC), (b) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), (c) Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (PCUSA), (d) United Church of Christ (UCC); (e) United Methodist Church (UMC), and (f) Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Working in con­ junction with three advisory panels com­prising seminary scholars, denominational experts, and clergy from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, the Search Institute of Minneapolis developed the scale utilizing a criterion-based approach. Development was guided by eight considerations: (a) faith ma­turity occurs along a continuum; (b) there are multiple core dimensions of faith matu­rity; (c) faith maturity involves both one’s personal relationship with God (vertical faith), as well as one’s relationship with oth­ers and behavioral manifestations of faith (horizontal faith); (d) the scale should have heuristic value; (e) the length of the instru­ment and its response format should make it useful; (f) the scale should minimize eco­ nomic, educational, and racial-ethnic speci­ficity; (g) the indicators of faith maturity should not presume an institutional attach­ment or involvement; and (h) denomina­tional specificity should be minimized.

Utilizing a thorough and systematic process, the investigators generated the FMS in a three-stage process which con­sisted of (a) naming the core dimensions, defining faith-maturity indicators, and developing survey items. The result of their work is a 38-item, 7-point Likert scale that yields a global faith-maturity score with a potential range of scores between 1 and 7.

Practical Considerations:

This paper-and­ pencil measure does not require any particu­lar skill to administer, score, or interpret. Brief instructions are provided and the global score is derived by calculating the mean of the 38 items. Five items (13%) are reversed scored. The possibility of alternate scoring by subscale and/or according to a four-fold typology, as well as the development of two shorter versions are discussed, but further re­ search is needed before these methods pos­sess the same reliability and validity as the original FMS measure and scoring criteria.


From a nationally representative sample of congregations, 150 were randomly selected from each of the six participating denominations. Samples were stratified by size of the congregation to en­ sure representative distribution. Within each congregation, adolescents, adults, Christian Education teachers, pastors, and Christian Education coordinators (10 from each cate­ gory) were randomly selected.

Norms in the form of mean scores are provided for each of these groups. Sample size ranged from 3,582 (adult) to 404 (Christian Education Coordinator), reflect­ing a 65% response rate for most groups. These norms are provided based on a total of five of the six groups; one denomination, Southern Baptist, was eliminated due to sample anomalies.


Cronbach Coefficient Alpha reli­abilities are reported by age, gender, denomination, and respondent category (i.e. adults, pastors, etc.). Coefficients across all categories range from .84 (females over 69 years) to .90 (males 60–69 years), demon­strating high reliability for the measure.


The authors present evidence to support face, content, and construct validity. Because the FMS is criterion-based and panels of experts were utilized to aid with construction, face validity is apparent at least for the denominations represented. Content validity is supported by the three­ stage process that was utilized to develop the items. Items were derived based on indi­cators of the eight core dimensions postu­lated by the authors in conjunction with the expert panels. Construct validity of the mea­ sure was assessed utilizing the techniques of known groups, expert raters, comparison scores by age, and comparison with other measures. Results of these evaluations yielded confirmation of all predictions. Pas­ tors received the highest scores (known group), significant correlations existed be-

tween expert raters and actual scores ob­tained on the FMS by individuals, faith ma­turity increased linearly with age, and the FMS correlated with intrinsic religiousness and was unrelated to extrinsic religiousness. Evidence supporting the validity of the FMS makes it quite suitable for research use.


Mark one answer for each. Be as honest as possible, describing how true it really is and now how true you would like it to be.

Choose from these responses:

  • 1 = never true
  • 2 = rarely true
  • 3 = true once in a while
  • 4 = sometimes true
  • 5 = often true
  • 6 = almost always true 7 = always true
  1. I am concerned that our country is not doing enough to help the poor
  2. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who .. died on a cross and rose again
  3. My faith shapes how I think and act each and every day
  4. I help others with their religious questions and struggles
  5. I tend to be critical of other people (R) .
  6. In my free time, I help people who have problems or needs
  7. My faith helps me know right from wrong .
  8. I do things to help protect the environment .
  9. I devote time to reading and studying the Bible .
  10. I have a hard time accepting myself (R) in the world
  11. I take excellent care of my physical health
  12. I am active in efforts to promote social justice
  13. I seek out opportunities to help me grow spiritually
  14. I take time for periods of prayer or meditation .
  15. I am active in efforts to promote world peace
  16. I accept people whose religious beliefs are different from mine
  17. I feel a deep sense of responsibility for reducing .. pain and suffering in the world
  18. As I grow older, my understanding of God changes
  19. I feel overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and obligations I have
  20. I give significant portions of my time and money to help other people
  21. I speak out for equality for women and minorities
  22. I feel God’s presence in my relationships with other people
  23. Every day I see evidence that God is active .
  24. My life is filled with meaning and purpose .
  25. I do not understand how a loving God can allow so much pain and suffering in the world (R)
  26. I believe that I must obey God’s rules and commandments in order to be saved (R)
  27. I am confident that I can overcome any problem or crisis no matter how serious
  28. I care a great deal about reducing poverty in the United States and throughout the world
  29. I try to apply my faith to political and social issues is committed to Jesus Christ .
  30. My life is committed to Jesus Christ.
  31. I talk with other people about my faith .
  32. My life is filled with stress and anxiety .
  33. I go out of my way to show love to people I meet
  34. I have a real sense that God is guiding me .
  35. I do not want the churches of this nation getting involved in political issues (R)
  36. I like to worship and pray with others .
  37. I think Christians must be about the business of creating international understanding  and hannony
  38. I am spiritually moved by the beauty of God’s … creation enough to help the poor


Benson, P. L., Donahue, M. J., & Erickson, J. A. (1993). The Faith Maturity Scale: Conceptualiza­ tion, measurement, and empirical validation. In M. L. Lynn & D. 0. Moberg (Eds.), Research in the so­cial scientific study of religion (Vol. 5, pp. 1-26). Greenwich: JAi Press.

Subsequent Research:

Benson, P. L. & Donahue, M. J. (1990). Value­ genesis: Report 1. A study of the influence of fam­ ily, church, and school on the faith, values and commitment of Adventist youth. Paper presented to the General Conference, North American Divi­sion, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Silver Spring, MD.

Additionally, the instrument has been used in local and regional studies of Catholic, Episcopal, American Baptist, and the Re­ form Church of America as well as with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Australia. No specific references were given in the Benson and Donahue (1990) article.


Benson, P. L. & Eklin, C. E. (1990). Effective Christian education: A national study of Protestant congregations: A summary report on faith, loyalty, and congregation life. Unpublished manuscript, Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN.