The end of the school year means a time of transition for eight grade students to high school and a time for high school seniors to move on to college. This transition time has been a concern of mine for a couple of years now. I don’t think we do enough on the hand off, especially in high school ministry. We need to move the goal post back a few yards and realize that just because high school is over we’re not done with these students. We need to help them transition to college ministry or often times with students who move away to college, we need to help them find a new church to attend. I just read a great blog by Kurt Johnston and Josh Griffin on this subject and they bring up some great points. This is a must read article. Click here for their thoughts.
One of the problems we have is getting students to move on from a ministry they love, especially your “core” kids. The ones that are at every service and event you have. I think they have a big problem making the move for several reasons. First off they are going from a ministry where everyone knows them to one where they are unknown. They go from being the big fish in the small pond to being the small fish in the big pond. They are stepping out of their comfort zone. If you have a student who hates change more than the Amish this is really a problem.
We need to get students plugged into college ministry programs before they get out of high school. If your student small group is composed of all seniors, get them signed up as a college small group so they can get to know the small group leaders for college ministry and the college ministry leaders can get to know them.
We need to get college ministry leaders to attend summer camps and begin building relationships with outgoing high school seniors. I almost think we need a separate summer camp just for this!
If you have students moving out of the area to go to school, help them find a church close to their college. Don’t wait for them to leave and do it on their own, chances are unless they are really strong in their walk with God they won’t follow through. Spend some time helping them research the area and the churches there so you can find one that closely follows your beliefs. If you know of previous students in that area, connect the students together so they can know someone there before they move away.
Follow up! Keep in contact, make sure they know you’re there to help and advise them and pray like crazy for them.
We’re coming up to the end of the school year and it’s tempting for students to want to slow down, to just finish the school year and be done. I think this applies to junior high and high school students and college students as well. There is a temptation as a small group leader to just coast your group to the finish line. So much is at stake here and I could list out about a million reasons why you don’t want to do that but the most important one is the message we are sending to students. The message that gets sent is this: I’m strong in my faith but there are times its okay to just slow down and take my faith for granted.
I want to finish the school year strong. I want to know that students in my group are making some major steps in their spiritual life and that they are continuing to grow. I don’t want them to think its okay to build this great relationship with Jesus during the school year and then during the summer I just kind of put Jesus in the background and I’ll get back to him in September. If you have eight graders about to make the transition to high school or high school seniors about to head off to college you really need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to transition them off to the next stage of their life. I’m going to blog more about that later this week but for today I wanted to list some things to help your students finish the school year:
- Consider meeting over the summer. Traditionally student small groups stop meeting during the summer. People go on vacation, and there are a lot of distractions but I still meet during the summer. I know that not every student will be there each week but at least they have an option.
- Keep in contact with them over the summer. Text them, have lunch with them; do a movie day or a beach day.
- If you have students who are struggling in a particular area keep holding them accountable and make sure they are keeping in contact with their accountability partners. Keep encouraging them over the summer.
- If your church has a summer camp, encourage your students to go. I can’t say enough about camp. This will be my fifth year as a camp leader and I’ve seen so many students have a life changing experience at camp.
*Warning* this post contains a humble brag.
Last night our High School Ministry had all of the high school small groups meet together and before hand the leaders were treated to dinner as a way of saying thanks. It was good to see and talk with leaders that I had not seen since summer camp last year. As I looked around the room it dawned on me…there were three young leaders there who I have had in my past small groups. It was a cool feeling to realize that three guys who I had a small part of pouring into their lives are now pouring into the lives of students in their own small groups.
I think I’ve reached the stage of life where maybe God needs me more as a mentor and teacher than a small group leader. Don’t get me wrong I love the guys in my high school small group and I look forward to seeing them each week and talking with them and watching them grow in the faith and seeing God do great things in their lives. But I feel more and more I’m being called into more of a mentoring and “teach the teacher” arena. I’m always honored when other leaders come to me for help with a problem student, or how to handle a situation. I feel blessed that God has given me the gift of relating and communicating with teens and young adults.
I could write on and on about knowing and feeling God’s call in your life and when you’re entering a new season. I think it’s different for all of us. But I know for myself I feel more and more that God is moving me in a new direction in student ministry. It’s something I’ve been praying about daily and I think last night was God really showing me something. I can influence a few students being a small group leader, but I can influence a ton of students by mentoring and training leaders. I’ll keep praying on this and either way, I’m excited to see how God uses me next!
Last week I was sitting in Starbucks when someone from our Children’s Ministry staff came in. She was the first person I ever volunteered with at church, so we go back quite a few years. We got to talking about the idea of conviction and how it affects what we do. She had read about conviction earlier that day in a devotional, and she was taking that idea and using it to challenge some of her younger Children’s Ministry volunteers to step up into a stronger role.
Her thoughts about conviction got me thinking a lot about the role it plays in my students. If I look at the guys who seem to have the strongest relationship with God–the ones who really get it–I see a stronger sense of conviction. They’re convicted to read their Bibles more, pray more, do things that are outside their comfort zone to grow in God. So where does this sense of conviction come from in them?
As I’ve looked more into this Christian use of the word “conviction,” I’ve found that it comes partly from the Greek word for “faith.” That would lead me to believe that conviction and faith go hand in hand. You can’t have conviction without first having faith. In those students I was talking about above, they have a faith that is strong and growing. Because of this, they also seem to have a stronger sense of conviction.
I know that’s just one idea that plays into the idea of conviction, so now I turn it to you. In your experience, where does conviction come from? Is it something that can be instilled in someone, or does it have to come about organically through a basis of faith?
I had a chance last week for some good one-on-one time with one of the students in my High School Small Group. I had some things I wanted to talk to him about and it was also a chance to just spend some quality time with him. We went to a baseball game and it was a fun and productive evening.
The next day I thought about how I’ve learned over time how to use a night like this to the best advantage. When I was first starting out in student ministry, I would have used time on the drive to the stadium to have a conversation about some stuff going on with him. I more than likely would have forced the issue before he was ready to talk. I’ve learned to use a night like this for fun. Just some time to sit back and relax and let him see me as a human and not the guy teaching Bible lessons and telling him how he should live his life. As it turned out, he brought up the subject I wanted to talk with him about; I didn’t have to say anything.
We’ve written in the past about how valuable one-one-time can be with a student. Just remember to use that time wisely. I want students to look forward to that time instead of when I asked to spend some time with them, have them think, “Oh no, now what did I do?” During one-on-one time, be intentional. Don’t check e-mail and spend time answering and sending text messages. Don’t avoid the tough conversations but save it for the right time. If a student is not ready to talk don’t get discouraged, just wait for the time to be right. And more than anything have fun! Just be a kid for the night. Sometimes there is no better way to bond with a student than just having fun laughing and talking.