Title

Exploring Spirituality: Midlife Christian Women's Experiences of Spiritual Growth and Formation and the Impact on Their Influence of Others

Date of Degree

5-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Jessica C. Kimmel

Advisor

J. Michael Cave

Advisor

Dorothy Ettling

Advisor

Nancy Robbins

Abstract

This research explored midlife Christian women’s experiences of spirituality and processes of spiritual growth. The researcher also examined the impact of those experiences on the women’s influence of others. The theoretical framework was adult learning theory, including theory about women’s ways of knowing, the concept of women developing voice, and transformative learning theory. Theories of adult development related to women’s spiritual development and women’s midlife development also shaped this study. Increased understanding of midlife women’s spiritual growth processes, greater understanding of the ways spiritual growth and spirituality inform women’s leadership of influence, guidance for program development, and adding to the theory and literature on midlife women’s learning were the primary areas of significance for this research. The method of inquiry was phenomenological research using the strategies of individual in-person interviews with 14 women from three United Methodist Church sites in a large southwestern United States city, a questionnaire, and one focus group session. The analysis focuses on profiles of each participant’s story to reveal the variety of their spiritual growth experiences, and a discussion of V-O-I-C-E-S, representing the themes of Variety, Others, Internal Focus, Creative Expression, External Focus, and Self-creation. The researcher offers conclusions and recommendations for listening to women’s stories, mentoring in the church setting, and program development.

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