Module 5 - The Three Stages of Faith Development

Teachers’ Seminar

Module 5: The Three Stages of Faith Development

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module the learner will be equipped to:

  • Explain the three levels of the faith domain.
  • Demonstrate how to teach to the three levels of the cognitive domain while teaching to the three levels of the faith domain.
  • List qualities of the teacher that are essential for teaching to the faith domain.

In order to get to the heart of spiritual teaching, the teacher must address the realm of faith as well as cognitive development. It is vital that the teacher understand how emotions and attitudes relate to receptivity. “He who seeks to transform humanity must himself understand humanity. Only through sympathy, faith, and love can men be reached and uplifted” (Education, p. 78).


The first stage of faith development is interest. The class member must be receptive to the content of Scripture in order to be open to belief. “True education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind. The mental powers must be awakened, the interest aroused” (ibid., p. 41).

This is why a teacher can benefit from an understanding of how minds work. This is why it is helpful to study personality, temperament, and learning styles. The bent of the mind should help direct inquiries on the part of the student (see Education, p. 188). The more teachers know about how to awaken interest and how to avoid repelling students the more potential there is for getting close to the hearts of class members.

“Teachers do not make as earnest work as they should of the Sabbath school exercises; they should come close to the hearts of the scholars, by aptness, by sympathy, by patient and determined effort to interest every scholar in regard to the salvation of the soul” (Testimonies on Sabbath School Work, p. 13).


If interest is awakened and the student has a receptive attitude, he or she is much more open to the next stage of faith development, which is belief.

A simple knowledge of emotional needs and defense mechanisms will help the teacher avoid things that might repel students and influence them to disbelief. Visualize common emotional needs as hands reaching out from the mind. The need to feel important is considered the strongest psychological need in human beings. There are a number of other needs, such as the need for acceptance, love, freedom, safety, and, most of all, the need for God. Studying the Spirit of Prophecy will help teachers to recognize methods that violate these needs.

“Wherever the power of intellect, of authority, or of force is employed, and love is not manifestly present, the affections and will of those whom we seek to reach assume a defensive, repelling position, and their strength of resistance is increased” (Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 210).

An adult’s need for importance, for example, is violated when his/her intelligence is insulted by asking questions with obvious answers. Teachers may unwittingly use authority or force by harsh or critical statements, by putting people on the spot for an answer, or by condemning wrong answers. “Some persons speak in a harsh, uncourteous manner that wounds the feelings of others” (ibid., vol. 1, p. 45).

A teacher may be guilty of spiritual abuse by exercising control over the minds of class members.

Old habits die hard. Teachers sometimes teach in the manner they have been taught. Education has been impacted, in general, by the age of scholasticism in which the body was considered evil and punishment beneficial to the mind. Some teachers try to hold members hostage by putting them in their place intellectually or winning an argument. In some circles we are not far removed from the days when the dullard wore a dunce cap and reading, writing, and ’rithmetic were taught to the tune of the hickory stick. This smacks more of the school of the Pharisees than that of Christ and the school of the prophets.


The teacher needs to keep in mind that it is more important that members learn how to practice unselfish love than it is to become a walking encyclopedia of biblical knowledge. “Love, the basis of creation and of redemption, is the basis of true education” (Education, p. 16). Love can be realized only as a result of a belief in God’s Word that results in the new birth. A teacher manifesting the fruit of love can do much to awaken interest and facilitate belief that produces love in the hearts of class members.

He who seeks to transform humanity must himself understand humanity. Only through sympathy, faith, and love can men be reached and uplifted” (Education, p. 78).

Seminar Evaluation

The following quiz is designed for teachers to evaluate their own level of knowledge, understanding, and application. It may also be helpful for teachers to ask class members to anonymously provide feedback by completing the form for them.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

1. Teacher obviously understands the three levels of faith development.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. Teacher awakens interest in the content of Scripture.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. Teacher exercises tact, skill, and wisdom in working with varied minds and temperaments.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. Teacher comes close to the hearts of class members by aptness and sympathy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. Teacher avoids putting class members on the spot or asking them embarrassing questions.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. Teacher uses no methods that tend to repel students.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. Teacher does not force members to respond in a certain way or condemn answers given by class members.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. Teacher does not ask questions with obvious answers.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9. Teacher maintains a loving environment that makes class members receptive to belief.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10. Members are obviously growing in love for one another and for the lost.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Score ____ (Total the numbers marked or circled for each question. Total possible: 100.)

James Kilmer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists