Doctor of Ministry

Year Approved


First Advisor

Friesen Smith, Katie


College is often the time when students are asking questions about their identity and worldview. These questions are brought on by conflicting authority figures and institutions while experiencing a location change and significant transition. The painful circumstances within someone’s life can also play a significant role in a student attempting to resolve tension and make sense of previously unchallenged belief systems. The question this project engaged is how college students take ownership of their faith. The methodology for the project was mixed methods with a qualitative emphasis. The research instruments utilized were the Faith Development Scale, an online open-ended questionnaire, and semi-structured focus groups. The study sample included 92 current student leaders from a Midwestern Christian liberal arts university. James Fowler’s faith development theory, James Marcia’s identity development theory and Marcia Baxter Magolda’s self-authorship work were all utilized to develop the open-ended questionnaire. A review of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Romans 12:2 provided the foundation for a biblical and theological understanding of faith as developmental. The researcher used a grounded theory approach to synthesize and analyze the data, creating categories and subcategories from each stage of the qualitative process in order to arrive at four primary principles for how college students can take ownership of their faith. Students with a mature understanding of their faith were able to see painful experiences, such as a significant loss in one’s family or a significant failure in one’s faith community, as opportunities for faith exploration and faith ownership. Students presenting a mature faith were also willing to express anger and doubt honestly when they experienced a painful circumstance. Anger and doubt were honestly engaged with a significant spiritual partner who was willing to listen while encouraging engagement in spiritual disciplines. Spiritual partners were also found to emphasize process oriented relationships where support for one’s own development was primary.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Document Type

Doctoral thesis