A map to spiritual growth

A map to spiritual growth

New self-assessment tool is helping UUs identify their spiritual priorities.

Elaine McArdle


The Rev. Lindasusan V. Ulrich has long known that authenticity was something she valued, but it was only after participating in Spirit Map, a unique new self-assessment tool of spiritual wellbeing and priorities, that Ulrich learned that authenticity “is clearly central to who I am and want to be as a minister,” she said.

Ulrich, who is assistant minister at First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, Michigan, completed the Spirit Map survey while she was a ministerial intern at Unity Church-
Unitarian in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the tool was created by the congregation’s consulting arm, Unity Consulting. After Spirit Map also helped Ulrich learn that she wanted to put more emphasis on her own spiritual practice, she began doing fifteen minutes of coloring in a coloring book each morning, which she finds “very meditative” and conducive to providing insights. She is also in her fourth year of a daily gratitude practice.

Developed over the past few years, Spirit Map is a tool for individuals, couples, and congregations looking to identify their spiritual strengths and discover opportunities to develop peace, compassion, and joy. Unity Church was the first UU congregation to adopt policy governance, and Spirit Map emerged from its desire to be accountable for its “ends statements,” said Laura Park, managing director of Unity Consulting. Park developed Spirit Map with Bill Etter, a member of Unity Church and a retired marketing research professional. The Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs and the Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, co-ministers at Unity Church, developed some basic indicators of spiritual maturity upon which Park and Etter expanded, Park said.

Spirit Map is not, Park emphasized, an evaluation of someone’s spiritual strengths and weaknesses, nor does it create a spiritual maturity hierarchy. Instead, it is a self-assessment tool that prompts individuals to reflect on forty-four statements related to spiritual wellbeing, such as “I act in an authentic manner” and “I can ask for and accept forgiveness.” It then asks them to determine how true each statement is for them. Next, participants reflect on the same prompts and determine how important they are in their spiritual life. Spirit Map analyzes these responses to determine a person’s top five “signature strengths” and top five “key opportunities” for spiritual growth.

Spirit Map is useful for individuals looking for greater insight on where their spiritual journey can take them, including people from all faith traditions and those who identify as spiritual but not religious, said Park. It can assist seminarians as they shape their ministerial studies, help ministers create a career that emphasizes their strengths, and help individuals as they focus their own spiritual work or seek the guidance of spiritual mentors. For couples, it can help determine where their spiritual strengths support or complement each other.

“There’s nothing quite like it,” Park said of Spirit Map’s emphasis on helping people and congregations identify their own priorities and areas for growth. “Ultimately, we’d love for anyone on a spiritual quest to use this tool to better define what they want to work on and how to work on it.”

So far, 162 people—including ministers, seminarians, congregants, spiritual seekers, coaches, board trustees, and fourteen couples—have received their individual Spirit Map reports, Park said. For individuals, Spirit Map costs $35 for a full report, including a “quadrant map” of all their strengths and opportunities.

The tool is also useful in helping congregations determine whether their programs and activities are supporting the spiritual growth and development of their members. The results of individual responses by congregants are aggregated and analyzed to determine the congregation’s top five signature strengths and top five key opportunities for spiritual growth. This information can be used to develop programs that take advantage of the congregation’s spiritual strengths, and to communicate its spiritual identity to the congregation itself as well as to the larger community, potential new members, and ministers in search.

So far, six congregations across the United States have participated and received their congregational Spirit Map results, with 982 people completing the Spirit Map inventory for their congregations. The cost of Spirit Map ranges from $375 for congregations with fewer than 100 members to $2,250 for those with more than 2,500 members. Learn more at spiritmap.org.