Faith Ownership In Students: Part 1 – Active or Passive Learning?

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling… Philippians 2:12 (NIV).

As youth workers (and parents), I believe our drive, our vision, and our implementation of ministry programs should be centered on this important goal:

Students should live like disciples even more so when they are outside our ministry environments.

Youth Ministry Faith Ownership

For our part, are we helping students own their faith or depend on us and our weekly programs? If we are honest, this is a scary question to ask isn’t it? But, as we ponder this question, I want to ask three additional questions in the next few posts. Here’s the first one:

Are students participants in learning, or are they observers? Or to put another way, are students active in their learning or passive? So many youth ministries revolve around a weekly message where they can sit passively. What do we provide for students to actively engage in God’s Word and to get them digging for the truth and owning it?

Actively engaging God’s Truth rather than passively hearing it, is a key to faith ownership.

Here are 4 questions I am asking of myself right now as I consider how I can break away from the passive message format many of us are used to:

1) How can you make your message conversational? Whether you have a large or a small group of students, we should make every attempt to be conversational. When we can draw students into conversation and get them on board with a principle, it is more likely to stick. It’s easier just to talk at students since a ‘conversation’ can go off on tangents and become disorganized and counterproductive. With clear ground rules up front, we can interact with the largest of groups.

Bottom line: Students own the message more when we have included them in ‘creating’ it.

2) What ways are small group discussion used to help students digest the message? If you don’t have time for small group discussions following a message, I would suggest to make time. Even if it means slashing your message time, it’s imperative to give students the opportunities to verbalize the truth and frame your message in their own words. Essential to this is the ability to create application that is theirs to own.

3) When would an experience be better than a message? Recently with a large group of students we were teaching on prayer. Our time was somewhat limited, so rather than talk at students we gave them a short teaching and then gave them twenty to thirty minutes to pray. They had a prayer sheet to guide them and we ensured that this would be a time for quiet to allow everyone to pray.

Here’s what I learned: Many of our students don’t pray on a regular basis and were thankful for being shown how to pray. Many of them have told me since that they had a ‘prayer breakthrough’ and are able to pray at home more often. It was messy to set this up, but it was well worth it.

4) Why can’t we give more ownership to students? Right now, a volunteer and myself have a group of students from 9th grade through 12th grade, working as a team to create and present content for an upcoming series. It’s can be messy and unpredictable, but allowing these students to research, own, and present content is an incredible way for them to grow. It also communicates a clear vision to other students that this ministry is theirs and faith should be owned…

In our next post we’ll look out ways in which we can resource students to continue becoming self-feeders. Specifically, we’ll look how we can help them create a personal quiet time / devotion / bible study.

In the meantime, what have you found to effective in helping students to own their faith and become self-feeders? 

Phil <><

photo credit: Ant1_G via photopin cc

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