Connecting the dots between faith and life
Byrd, Nathan Cook
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The purpose of this narrative study was to gain understanding into the faith development of Christian emerging adults after graduation who were leaders in a Christian collegiate ministry while undergraduates at a large southern university. Three questions guided the narrative interview process and data analysis. First, how does the faith of Christian emerging adults change after college graduation? Second, how do emerging adults negotiate the relationship between faith and identity? Third, what happens in the experience and expression of faith during emerging adulthood? Two face-to-face interviews were conducted with each of the fourteen participants seeking to elicit narratives of faith development and experience. Participants were also asked to select and bring an artifact, representative of their faith or faith journey, to the first interview. After the initial interview, narrative analysis was conducted and initial findings were discussed with each participant in a second interview. Narrative analysis of the data revealed five key findings: (a) faith was influenced by each participant’s relationship with others; (b) faith was influenced by “the bubble” constructed by each participant. The bubble is the cultural environment that gives meaning to one’s life and experiences while providing insulation from influences contrary to one’s chosen or preferred perspective; (c) the significance of faith was indicated and influenced by each participant’s activities; (d) each participant’s faith was influenced by mystical experiences; and (e) faith development was influenced and motivated by his or her hopes and dreams for the future. Four conclusions were derived from the themes. First, the participants in this study operationalized their faith. Second, faith remained vital through emerging adulthood. Third, participants negotiated faith and identity within the bubble; the culturally situated, holistic, worldview that serves as the lens through which each participant viewed and made meaning of the world. The bubble was also an insulator from unwanted “differences.” Fourth, self-authorship was a continuous narrative process mediated through experience and relationships.