by Hank Hilliard
Editor’s Note: This exercise can also be used with parents.
A pathway has to do with the way we most naturally sense God’s presence and experience spiritual growth. You have at least one pathway that comes most easily to you. You also will have one or two pathways that are the most unnatural and require a lot of stretching for you to pursue.
This inventory will help you to assess and identify which pathways come most natural to you and those that may be foreign or awkward for you.
Score each of the following on a scale of 1 to 5. Write your answer on the score sheet next to the number that coincides with the statement. Be honest with your answers.
[Read these statements out load to your group and have them score themselves as you read.]
1= not me at all
2= not really me
3= sort of me
4= yeah, that’s me
5= for sure me, no doubt about it
1) I enjoy reading scripture and figuring out how to apply it to my life.
2) My relationships with my friends and family are the most important thing to me.
3) I have feel closest to God when I am on a mission trip, service project, or just during times when I am helping others.
4) I enjoy participating in or leading worship.
5) I am passionate about things like feeding the hungry, sponsoring children in foreign countries, and raising money and supplies for the homeless.
6) I try make time for quiet for reflection and thinking.
7) Give me a tent, sleeping bag, campfire, and a starry sky, and I am happy.
8) When reading the Bible, I read carefully and try to find the meaning in the words.
9) I like to divide into small groups for discussion and sharing.
10) I take opportunities to serve others through youth group, scouts, school clubs, or on my own.
11) I feel God’s presence during worship.
12) I am currently involved in a cause such as sponsoring a child, raising money for a charity, or other action that I initiated. (not as part of a group)
13) I think the world is too fast paced and that we all need to slow down in order to experience God more deeply.
14) My favorite worship services are the ones we do outside.
15) I like to read books (and not just ones I am assigned in school.)
16) The best way to experience God is in small group Bible study or discussions.
17) Mission projects and trips are a very important part of the youth ministry.
18) Listening to music can lift my spirits and help me experience God’s presence.
19) I feel most alive when I am part of a cause and I am working hard for that cause.
20) I keep a journal, or enjoy writing about things that I have experienced or felt.
21) I like to spend large chunks of time outdoors.
22) My favorite part of the worship service/youth group is the sermon/talk.
23) I spend a lot of time on Facebook and/or Twitter.
24) I believe that serving others is the most important thing a church can do.
25) I enjoy singing praise songs at church and youth group.
26) I respond well to pressure situations.
27) I often reflect on things that have happened in life and look for a deeper meaning.
28) When I see a mountain range or a clear blue sky, I recognize the awesomeness of God.
29) When someone preaches or teaches on something, I think on it for a while before I decide if it is true or not.
30) I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
31) I like to pitch in and do the little things to help such as picking up or setting up chairs.
32) People worshiping together with their whole hearts is one of my favorite things.
33) I like it when my life is fast-paced, complex, and strenuous.
34) When I am around a lot of people for an extended period of time I tend to get tired and irritable.
35) I believe people need to be out in nature more if they want to grow close to God.
36) I use the internet to learn and discover new things.
37) I do not like to spend long periods of time alone.
38) Serving others brings me joy.
39) When I have not been a part of worship service for a while, I long for it.
40) When others are discouraged or think something can’t be done, I still think I can do it.
41) I feel God the most when things are still and quiet.
42) I enjoy backpacking and hiking.
43) I feel God most through learning more about Him.
44) I feel God more through my conversations with other people than through reading the Bible or hearing a sermon
45) I enjoy helping out at places such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, or orphanages.
46) I never feel awkward when I am praising God.
47) Challenges and difficulties do not discourage me, but they energize me.
48) I don’t have to be the center of attention. I am happy watching.
49) I would rather be outside than watching TV or on Facebook.
50) I enjoy studying about new subjects and learning about things that are new to me.
51) I am comfortable with sharing my heart and being vulnerable with those I consider myself close to.
52) I feel God is happy with me when I am serving those in need.
53) I experience tears and moments of deep joy when I am worshiping God.
54) When I hear about injustice, I actually do something about it.
55) I enjoy having large blocks of uninterrupted times alone.
56) I feel God when I am in nature.
Score yourself 1 to 5. Write your score in the blank next to the number that matches the statement you are scoring.
1= not me at all
2= not really me
3= sort of me
4= yeah, that’s me
5= for sure me, no doubt about it.
1) _____ 2) _____ 3) _____ 4) _____ 5) _____ 6) _____ 7) _____
8) _____ 9) _____ 10) _____ 11) _____ 12) _____ 13) _____ 14) _____
15) _____ 16) _____ 17) _____ 18) _____ 19) _____ 20) _____ 21) _____
22) _____ 23) _____ 24) _____ 25) _____ 26) _____ 27) _____ 28) _____
29) _____ 30) _____ 31) _____ 32) _____ 33) _____ 34) _____ 35) _____
36) _____ 37) _____ 38) _____ 39) _____ 40) _____ 41) _____ 42) _____
43) _____ 44) _____ 45) _____ 46) _____ 47) _____ 48) _____ 49) _____
50) _____ 51) _____ 52) _____ 53) _____ 54) _____ 55) _____ 56) _____
I _____ R_____ S_____ W_____ A_____ CO_____ CR_____
To get your score add down each column and write your total in the blank at the bottom of the column. Below are the Pathways.
INTELLECTUAL = I
RELATIONAL = R
SERVING = S
WORSHIP = W
ACTIVIST = A
CONTEMPLATIVE = CO
CREATION = CR
The following is based on a chapter in John Ortberg’s book God is Closer Than You Think.
People on this pathway draw closer to God as they learn more about him. New ideas and insights are exciting. You love the deep study of scripture. The word “theology” gets your blood pumping faster. You meander around bookstores for hours. Your favorite part of the worship service is the sermon. Small groups where people get together to share their feelings and their ignorance of the Bible does not appeal to you. You are so glad Jesus added “mind” to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. The road to your heart runs right through your head. You need to be continually learning through reading, thinking, and hearing sound preaching and teaching.
The apostle Paul could be considered to have walked on the Intellectual Pathway. He was a student of Gamaliel, who was a Jewish scholar. He also demonstrated great intellectual tact in addressing the Areopagus (the elders and philosophers) in Greece (check it out in Acts 17).
The danger of this pathway is becoming all head and no heart. You may find it important to be right and prove your point. This usually hurts the person whom you are arguing with. Someone once asked a man who had been married for 50 years “How have you managed to stay together with your wife for so long?” The old man responded, “I decided long ago it was more important to be kind and loving than to be right.” Paul wrote “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Be careful to not let your intelligence be a source of pride. Many have missed the point of Jesus by 18 inches, the distance from the head to the heart.
People who walk on this pathway feel God’s presence most through significant relationships. Small groups and other community experiences are very important in their spiritual walk. If this is you, you rarely meet a stranger. You know everybody. You strike up conversation with the person next to you on the plane and the check out clerk at the grocery store. Being alone is not your thing. It is boring and uncomfortable for you to spend long periods of time quiet and alone. You sometimes feel guilty that you are not “contemplative.” Your key spiritual moments happen in the midst of others.
The apostle Peter displayed many characteristics of this pathway. After the crucifixion, he was the one who gathered the disciples for a fishing trip. He cared much more about being in relationship with Jesus than he did trying to figure him out. Peter jumped in to be with Jesus.
People on this pathway tend to hear God speak more in conversation than in a book. They grow more whether it is though service, study, or prayer, if it is done in the context of a group. Relational types have to be careful of superficiality. It is tempting to form many shallow friendships and ignore deeper convicting and challenging ones. They also have to avoid the danger of becoming dependent on others. Solitude is important. Jesus spent a lot of time alone with his Father, and it is important for you to do so as well. Some focused time alone in prayer, reflection, and quiet will be difficult, but it will stretch you and help you grow deeper in your relationship with God and others.
For people on the service pathway, God is most evident to them when they are helping others. If this is you, you feel most alive when you are doing something–setting up chairs, leading worship, building a porch. Your deepest conversations about and with God emerge during and through service. Mother Teresa said that she served others not because it was something she was supposed to do, but because it brought her joy.
For these people, attendance is not enough. They need a role, a place to serve, otherwise God feels distant. They look for God in the work they do and in the people they serve.
The danger with this pathway is thinking that God is only present in service. There is the temptation of becoming self-righteous, thinking everyone who does not serve others with the same regularity and passion has a dead faith. Those on this path must make time for reflection, study, and learning. They must also take opportunities to receive acts of service from others.
People on this pathway are natural worshipers. They have a gift of expression, praise, and celebration. They feel most connected to God in the context of worship. Many of their formative moments happened during a worship service. Singing is one common aspect of worship that is deeply moving. You do not want the singing to end. You find yourself with your arms outstretched or perhaps teary-eyed during the singing of your favorite songs or hymns.
King David was probably on this pathway. He wrote many of the Psalms, which are deeply personal and intimate. He played music, write poetry, and sang to God. He danced before the Lord. If this is you, you need to create places in your daily life to experience worship. Play music in your car and sing along. Download some favorite praise songs or other moving music to your iPod and take it with you wherever you go.
Some warnings for the worshipers. First, don’t judge others who are not as outwardly expressive as you in worship. The way in which people worship depends largely on their tradition and their personality. You cannot tell how worshipful someone is by looking at them as Chris Tomlin plays on stage or on the radio. Second, don’t see worship as the be-all-end-all. It is easy to get hooked on worship and live and look for your next worship “high” or “fix.”
Worship is about offering your best to God, not all about receiving. You need to leave your comfort zone occasionally. For example, music is powerful. So powerful, that many name it as their favorite way to worship God. If this is the case, then sometimes, you need to turn it off in order to experience God in a different way and to focus on him and not the songs. All those on this path need to push themselves to engage in the study of scripture and in some heady discussions about God. This will challenge you and lead to even deeper spiritual growth.
Activists have a high energy level around things they care about. You have a passion to act. Hearing stories of injustice make you want to do more than shake your head and feel sorry for the victims for a few minutes before resuming your normal life. You want to act, and you want others to join you.
You thrive in taking on difficult challenges. You love a fast-paced and complex life. Activists work hard all day everyday for the kingdom of God. Prayer and action go hand in hand. You need a cause. Without it, your spiritual life stalls.
A caution for activists is to make sure you do not let the cause take precedent over people. In the process of pursuing a cause, you may hurt, use, or manipulate others if you are not careful. You may even end up using God to further your cause instead of having the cause be a way in which you pursue God. You may need to spend some regular time in quiet and solitude to stay in tune with God and His purpose in the world. Listen to what God is telling you. Pay attention to what He is doing in the world, and let that motivate your actions.
If you are on this pathway, you love long periods of time alone. Reflection comes naturally to you. You are often content to be an observer in life. God is most present to you in the still, calm, quiet. If you get too busy or have to spend extended periods of time with too many people around, you feel drained and tired.
Contemplatives are often seen as having great wisdom and poise. They have a calming effect on others especially during difficult situations. The apostle John is understood to bask in the love and adoration of God. He was perhaps a contemplative. If you are a contemplative, you may need permission to pursue your path. Especially in results driven America, contemplatives are not often recognized as valuable.
If this is you, you have a large internal world of deep thinking and observation. You need little external stimulation. Silence and solitude is essential to the health of your soul. You need to carve out large chunks of time to spend alone in God’s presence.
You need to regularly stretch yourself in the area of relationships. It is tempting and easy to retreat to your inner world when things get difficult, or relationships disappoint you. Some involvement in regular acts of service and relationship building experiences will keep you connected to others.
Creation types have a passionate and wonderful ability to connect with God when they are experiencing the beauty and wonder of his world. Being outdoors energizes your spirit and replenishes your soul. If you are cooped up inside too long you feel restless.
For people on this pathway, God’s glory shines in all things big and small. You are blown away by the majesty of a mountain or waterfall. However, you are equally amazed and awed by the blurred flapping of a hummingbird’s wings. You need to spend large amounts of time outdoors. If you live in an urban area, some regular retreats to the country will be renewing. Surround yourself with reminders of God’s creation. Carry pictures of your favorite outdoor places, stop by a local park once a week, lie in the grass, go to the zoo.
People on this path need to guard against using going into nature as an escape. People are God’s most beloved creation. You must remember to love others. Participating in some service-oriented ministry would be very helpful to you. Also, it is tempting to think you can find God best alone in the outdoors. But God intends you to worship alongside others. John Wesley said, “The Bible knows no solitary religion.” Make attendance at worship a priority so that you can connect with others and with God alongside fellow journeyers.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.