I received an email from one of my closest friends and favorite youth pastors this morning. The email was a question out to many youth pastors asking, “What are you doing to help transition your high school graduates into the college ministry.” Since I know there are many youth pastors who read this blog (and by the way, feel free to tell the youth pastor of your church about all of the helpful resources of this blog), and wanted to let you know my thoughts on this important question since statistics say somewhere between 50 – 90% of high schoolers who were faithful in the church during their HS years…once they graduate…they literally leave and never return faithfully again. 50% is terrible enough, but some statistics terrifyingly say 90%. This problem must be addressed. Here is my humble contribution…
“That is definitely the million dollar question! I can only tell you what we do. I haven’t been a student pastor here (or in general) long enough to tell you what HAS worked for me yet. By the way, I’m replying to everyone because I’d love hearing all yalls ideas on this, too.
As for your specific questions. We kick our graduated students out of high school SS small groups June 1 and transition them into the college ministry SS small groups the first Sunday in June. The graduates are allowed to continue to do anything and everything with the student ministry through the months of June and July including Wednesday night worship services, camps, mission trips, weekly activities, and rolling the worship pastor’s yard. The college minister is an easy one for us because…THAT’S ME TOO! But we do have two awesome couples who volunteer as leaders for our college ministers. We will reveal and unveil them for the graduates as soon as they move into the college ministry the first of June. The reason we move them in June 1 is becuase we want them to have relationships and comfortability already built in through the summer months for when they come back home from college in the future. But we allow them to continue all student ministry activities (except SS small groups) so that they can transition out smoothly. Come to the think of it, Steve, I think you’re the one who taught me all this! We did add the punishment for returning to student Sunday school after graduating…we just went with the old fashioned flogging administered by the 7th grade boys. They’re the rowdiest.
But to be totally honest, we don’t wait until their final senior semester to start preparing them for the college ministry. In fact I’m learning, its not about the college ministry ultimately. I believe the biggest problem with seniors quitting the ministries of the church and the church in general is first and foremost a problem of salvation. So many youth ministries don’t hammer the gospel, don’t preach real salvation, don’t teach Lordship salvation, don’t teach the importance of the church in salvation, and only focus on easy believism and a sissy Jesus. From 7th grade, we constantly teach our students the glory of Christ, a real salvation, and the centrality of the church in the life of the Christian. I believe if we wait until the senior year to teach these things, most of the seniors are already gone, and they’ll just see it as a plea to stay there since its their time to go.
I also gotta add that most student ministries don’t reflect or resemble the church. Student ministries have moved away from real, Bible preaching and have moved towards games, videos, dramas, and just pure energy drinkin kinda fun. Now we use all those in our student ministry (even the energy drinks), but they never take the PRECEDENCE, the IMPORTANCE, and the CENTEREDNESS of the preaching of God’s Word. We work hard not to do that in a boring way whatsoever, but the preaching of God’s Word should always be exciting, engaging, enlightening, exposing, and extremely challenging to each and every student. (Notice I did not use the e-word emergent!)
Lastly, when it comes to this issue, I think most about the Scripture 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Those who are truly a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ through salvation will continue to be a part of the local church of Jesus Christ for sancticfication and toward glorification. We warn our college students with this Scripture. We warn them that if they are able to leave and never come back like the 90% statistic we constantly hear of…they are showing that they are not and never were truly a part of Christ or His body. But we equally encourage them every week to be a faithful Christian to Jesus and to be a faithful member to His church.”