The testing is done. Prom is over. Senior year is finished. The next stage of life is about to begin.
The choices, decisions, and questions that students have in their senior year can feel overwhelming. Where should I go to school? How will it be paid for? What do I want to study? Will I keep in touch with my friends? Will I like my roommate(s)? Will I be made fun of for my faith? We cannot answer all these questions, nor do we have all the answers to these questions. However, there are a few things that you can do to help your students before they take that next step from your youth ministry to adulthood.
Help them get connected.
Students who have served in church throughout their youth ministry years are much more likely to keep engaged with the church once they graduate high school. Find ways that your students can be involved in the ministries of the church. Another reason they are more connected is that they have relationships with other adults in the church.
According to Barna, when it comes to youth post-graduation, “Those who stay [in church] were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59 percent of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31 percent among those who are no longer active).” (Source: https://www.barna.com/research/5-reasons-millennials-stay-connected-to-church/) Once they graduate, help them get connected to a local church in the town their college is in. Also, most college campuses have a college ministry that you can connect those students with.
Teach them a healthy apologetic
Most students today don’t know how to defend their faith when they are asked about it. In college, they will be asked about it, and it will be challenged. Don’t shy away from tough questions that your students may have about their faith.
According to the findings of a five-year research project by Barna Group, President David Kinnaman wrote in his book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, that many students “do not feel safe”, admitting doubts and “admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able ‘to ask my most pressing life questions in church’ (36 percent) and having ‘significant intellectual doubts about my faith (23 percent).’” (Source: https://www.barna.com/research/six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church/)
In other words, many of these students have not learned how to answer tough questions about their faith.
Another common idea that we see today is that the Bible isn’t God’s Word, that it isn’t our ultimate authority, or even that it’s too old and outdated for the world we live in today. Teach your students how to answer those questions in a way that draws others into a conversation.
The Word of Life curriculum (www.teachersource.life) has great resources for lessons in Apologetics. Also, check out Sean McDowell on YouTube, or the Think Biblically podcast.
Encourage Christian Schools
Finally, take your students on college trips. There are probably great Christian colleges and universities around that offer campus visits that you can take your students on. Some of them even pay for your expenses to get there. Many students may want to go into a field that is offered by a Christian university, but they just don’t know about it.
The Word of Life Bible Institute is a great place to start. Even though Word of Life does not offer a four-year degree, it is a great place to lay a foundation for their beliefs as they move further into their career. You can find information about our campus visits at https://wordoflife.edu/admissions/visit-the-bible-institute.
Brett is a Word of Life Youth Ministry Coach in North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee. He and his wife Jenni have been blessed with 3 awesome kids and love doing ministry together.