Spirituality at a Crossroads: A Grounded Theory of Christian Emerging Adults

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This article summarizes 2 qualitative analyses investigating the experience of Christian spirituality in emerging adulthood. The 2 grounded theory analyses utilized a common dataset collected from Christian college students (n = 18) who completed the Relational Spirituality Interview, an in-depth, semistructured interview that explores numerous domains of spiritual experience from a relational spirituality perspective. The first analysis explored the spiritual experiences of all 18 participants and looked for general themes that commonly characterized emerging adults’ perceived relationship to God. The broader sample of participants described their spirituality as authentic, maturing, and corrective but also as guarded, fluctuating, and insecure. The second analysis examined thematic differences between sample participants nominated as spiritual exemplars (n = 8) and spiritual nonexemplars (n = 10). The primary themes differentiating spiritual exemplars from nonexemplars were taking ownership of one’s faith, being shaped by spiritual community, and facing spiritual pain.

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