In over 30 years of youth ministry, this is my least favorite time of year when I say “goodbye” to seniors. I’ve had to do this thousands of times. What are you doing to make this transition an unforgettably positive experience? Let me share with you what you should be thinking about when it comes to making this transition spiritually successful. (listen to our podcast episode on how to make this transition)
This time of year in youth ministry is bittersweet, isn’t it? At the end of a school year, we conclude another season of ministry, and we say goodbye to our seniors. In 30 years of youth ministry, I remember so many specific students from all those years and the pride in seeing them transform into adulthood.
But there are many students I’ve known who haven’t transitioned well. Some walked away from faith and Christianity. What can you do to help them continue to grow in their faith after they graduate?
- GO ONE ON ONE
Don’t treat seniors as a group, but individually. This is the biggest mistake I’ve made. Here’s what I mean.
Each student needs 1 adult to walk with them as they navigate all the decisions they make. Instead of just meeting with the seniors as a group and preparing them for life after high school, you must also do this one-on-one, one adult to one student. Every student in your ministry should have a follow-up person for them individually.
Studies have shown that if a student moves onto a college campus as a freshman, what they do in the first few hours will determine their spiritual trajectory while they are a college student. For example, what friends and connections they make RIGHT AWAY could make or break them spiritually. It is critical that on DAY ONE they determine to find a ministry that they can connect with. Spiritual isolation is deadly to any of us, but especially our college students.
What if you, as a youth worker, “checked in” on them their first day of college or in the fall (if they aren’t attending college)? Either physically or virtually, let them know you have prayed for them and encourage them to get connected to a place that will foster their spiritual growth.
- PROVIDE A RITE OF PASSAGE
Traditions in youth ministry are powerful. Over the years, I tried different things to celebrate seniors. Sometimes it was a trip or party, but I made it something to look forward to and not worth missing. Some youth ministries I know were very extravagant for what they did for seniors.
As you transition your students, create a tradition that is symbolic of this moment. It could be a gift, a programming element, party, experience, etc. Ask your students what would be memorable for them; perhaps they can speak into this with you.
- CREATE A MEMORABLE MOMENT
Here’s what you need to do: SOMETHING THAT THEY WILL NEVER FORGET.
One thing we do at NTS Camp is end our experience with foot washing. This is an unforgettable experience. And here’s the thing about it: it’s free. Don’t let budget constraints restrain your creativity.
It’s not about the money, it’s about the memory. Do something for them that they can’t forget.
More than ever, our students need our love and support. Remind them that when they graduate that your relationship and care for them will remain.
Thanks for all you do!
Jeff Eckart, CEO
Never The Same
P.S. Listen to our podcast conversation with youth ministry expert and Professor Charlie Alcock on the crisis moment for students when they graduate.
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash
© 2021, Never The Same