Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2020

Thesis Director

Richard L. Roberts

Thesis Committee Member

Roy T. Lanham

Thesis Committee Member

Jon K. Coleman


Among college students, research has revealed that 76% of them reported that they search for meaning in life (Dunn & Hammer, 2015). Spirituality is one specific way in which students begin their search for meaning. A qualitative approach was used to examine the perspectives of how six Christian college student leaders from three different campus ministries found their purpose. By examining and understanding purpose from one subset of religious students who serve in a leadership position, we may gain insight into the interplay of meaning-making, purpose, and leadership. This study concluded that faith or spirituality played an important role in how participants discovered their purpose. By examining these participants’ lived experiences through the lens of their Christian faith, certain themes were found. Meaning is found through engaging with the bible or spiritual books, through prayer, by listening to a divine nudge or voice, and by establishing a mentor/mentee relationship in the faith. Purpose is found 1) through discovering God-given talents and skills through service, 2) through an emerging process, 3) through taking advantage of service opportunities, and 4) through pursuing a servant-leadership style. Lastly, students displayed stages 4-6 of Fowler’s Faith Development Theory (2004). The interaction between the process of making meaning, discovering purpose, and leadership occurred through the participants taking a risk to serve, developing a servant-leadership style, and discover why they serve.