Developing Character with Intellect

We celebrate our students’ growing commitment to spiritual activities


How do Alliance colleges measure whether the spiritual formation enterprise is working on their campuses? Toccoa Falls College (TFC) tackled this elusive question and discovered the answer.

In accordance with our regional accreditors, which require a five-year, educational Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) once every 10 years, TFC wove a study of our institutional motto “where character is developed with intellect” into the curriculum. We enhanced our campus learning ethos with this theme through a required freshman course, student ministries, chapels, and majors’ capstone courses for five years, coordinating and hosting various elements of ethics, character, and spiritual transformation.

The result was a plan that rejuvenated our spiritual formation program to bring the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—into the learning process through an integrative strategy in the curricular and cocurricular programs.

From the classroom to off-campus ministries, we wanted students to gain better moral reasoning alongside knowledge, and we needed to be more intentional about providing such opportunities. Students who value how the whole person participates in the learning process better engage in their educational experience. This QEP hoped to generate this in our students, causing the spiritual principles that construct one’s character to converge with intellect in the learning process.

Connecting to God & Community through spiritual practicesThe statistical aspect of evaluating the QEP leaned heavily on the instrument Spiritual Transformation Inventory, the “only scientific assessment tool on spirituality that benchmarks against national norms.” The inventory measures center on how we understand God, community, and our own spiritual practices. The inventory was applied in pre/post fashion to freshmen and seniors. The data gathered was then analyzed and synthesized into an accreditation report.

In one example of the results, the chart shown here indicates that students are growing spiritually as a result of their engagement through various spiritual disciplines, through participation in the community and other service-learning opportunities.

The results showed that our students are more committed to spiritual activities, such as corporate worship and reading Scripture, as part of the character development enterprise than we expected. This meant our spiritual formation program was working.

In a world of emerging ideas such as gender identity, genetic engineering, animal cloning, fertility enhancements, stem cell research, euthanasia, and end of life issues, values are being challenged daily. Rising global enterprises and pluralistic worldviews both strengthen and challenge every person’s value system in a society where dramatic changes are taking place.

More than ever, the importance of combining character and intellectual development is essential for college students to preserve key social and religious values as they encounter new situations.

In Their Own Words

jennie-griner“Since being here, I have been encouraged daily to grow deeper in my walk with God by peers and faculty alike. Surrounded by people who are at different places of their spiritual journey, we as a community build each other up and love with the grace that God gives us.”

—Jennie Griner, sophomore

wesley-lavrinc“TFC has impacted my spiritual life by teaching me different ways to engage with God in an intimate way, such as prayer, silence and solitude, Bible reading, small-group discussions, and worship with songs.”

—Wesley Lavrinc, sophomore

john-thar“Sometimes the areas in which we need the most growth are also the places of which we are least cognizant and most uncomfortable. The Lord has used the environment of TFC to reckon with these things in a community of friends who would not see me fall.”

—John Thar, senior

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