This rings true in just about every category of life. We treat our own vehicle better than a rental, and we take more pride in a room in our house than we might a hotel room.
We take care of the things we consider personally valuable, and our faith is no exception.
Faith ownership is the ultimate goal of every believer as an individual reaches a point in the journey realizing that following Jesus is the most important thing and, therefore, works to protect and nurture that relationship.
Yet, as we know, ownership does not happen automatically.
A teenager who grasps ownership of his or her faith will have the confidence, wisdom, courage, grace, power and authority to stand up and be an ambassador for Jesus Christ in a world that needs Him desperately.
If we desire to lead kids to a place of ownership, then we must set that goal as our target and understand how to get there.
In my book, Lost in Transition: Becoming Spiritually Prepared for College, I give this illustration to students about ownership:
I hate to do yard work. I hated it as a kid, and I pretty much hate it now. Sometimes it’s not that bad, but I live in the South where it is hot for most of the year. Nothing is worse than beginning to sweat just walking out the front door. When I was a kid, I had outside chores to do each week which included cutting the grass. (Did I mention that I hated to do that?) My poor parents had to listen to me complain the whole time. Now, even though I still don’t like mowing the grass, I take a weird sense of pleasure in it. It’s still hot, and I’d still rather be doing something else, but the pride that I feel when I can look at how nice my yard looks makes it worth the trouble. The only difference in doing that chore as a kid and doing it as an adult is that it is my yard that I am mowing now. It’s my house and my yard, to be enjoyed by my family. That makes all the difference in how I look at it and the quality of the job that I do.
The point is this: Ownership comes with maturity, and you are more likely to care for something you own rather than something for which you are not solely responsible. Owning your faith could be the hardest but most rewarding thing you will ever do for yourself. It is a significant move towards growing in a deeper relationship with Christ and making the spiritual transition from high school to college.
Sometimes when my dog needs to take medication she will see the pill and not think of it as food, but if I pack the pill inside a piece of cheese, she will eat the cheese without even knowing that she has taken medicine.
If you were to inform a group of teenagers that you intended to teach them to be responsible, disciplined, mature people before they graduate, they would look at you with the same confusion my dog gives me when I hold a heartworm pill to her mouth.
Therefore, you may have to take that goal and wrap it up in cheese, meaning that you will teach ownership by strengthening the cores of faith and helping to make them stick.
Everything you do in youth ministry should be done with the underlying mission of establishing ownership because that is how you truly make disciples.
In Matthew 28, Jesus called us to make disciples. He didn’t say, “Go play games, sing songs, take trips and then send them off to become lukewarm.” He said to make disciples, and disciples have ownership.
Ownership Requires Balance
I often do youth ministry consulting by helping churches restructure the youth ministry so that the church is preparing kids for life after high school.
Within those meetings, I stress that a healthy youth ministry is built on four pillars: community, discipleship, evangelism and service. These four pillars give balance to a ministry and to the individuals involved.
A ministry that focuses solely on fellowship or even serving will produce young Christians who have a heart for others but without a depth of spiritual understanding.
Yet a ministry that is focused just on learning without doing will produce shallow believers who do not know how to put hands and feet on the faith they have learned about.
Faith ownership requires a balanced approach to teaching students what it means to follow Jesus and mature in that relationship.
Balance Requires Discipline
In an effort to teach a balanced approach to faith ownership, you must instill a sense of discipline into the equation.
Discipline is like a dirty word to teenagers (and some adults as well), but if students are going to continue growing in their faith after they leave the influence of your youth ministry, they must step up and understand the importance of developing discipline in life and faith.
The best way to teach discipline is to help kids see the value of a maturing faith. Helping them see what a balance, disciplined faith looks like will give your maturing students a target to gravitate towards.
Discipline Requires Partnership
If you are going to send off mature students with ownership in their faith, you cannot do it alone. You need the partnership of the parents to co-disciple kids prior to graduation. This partnership is critical because it is the parent that will continue to be an influence in the life of the child when your reach has expired.
Therefore, you must stand with the parents under a unified goal of establishing ownership.
Together, you and the parents must see the path to ownership as one that will require discipline and balance so that you make disciples ready to shine in the next stages of life.