Here’s a post we did at the end of the school year in the spring. I picked this post for Retro Friday this week because next week at Saddleback Church we begin a new year of student small groups. I want to keep this in mind throughout the year for my high school seniors who will be moving on at the end of the year. This post was originally on volunteeryouthministry.com You can find the original post here.
MATT: While meeting with my high school small group this week, I started looking around the room at my guys, picking out the seniors who will be moving on at the end of this school year. I thought about how far we have come, the amazing transformation in these guys, and how I can see amazing leadership skills in some of them. And then I began to wonder if I have done all I can to send these guys off to college and worlds beyond with the right skills and abilities to find their ministry, to continue their pursuit of Jesus and increase their knowledge in the Bible. My co-leader and I have had an easy time with some of our guys and a harder time with others. Some have their feet firmly planted in a walk with God, some not so much. My co-leader and I talked about it that night, and I realized he was thinking the same thing I was. We decided that we have three more months with our seniors and that we are going to do everything in our power to make this next three months count.
I prayed about it that night, and felt God was giving me ideas. One of them was that we are going to spend a lot of time making sure our guys have dedicated their lives to Christ and that they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I know most of them have, but I’m not sure about a couple of them. As a student ministry leader, God has placed these students in your care. Some of my guys come from homes where the parents do not attend church, as student ministry leaders we have to be the example for those students! I want to spend more time in the Word with my guys, I want them to find the comfort and advice that I find in my quiet time and Bible study. I also want them to know that I’ll be there for them, that just because they graduated from high school and have moved on from our small group, that my love and caring for them does not stop. I want to see them move on and start attending our college age services and get involved in another small group, or even better, stay together as a new college small group. I have some strong leaders in my small group, I want to see them go on and become leaders for younger students. Some of my guys have an amazing testimony and a God-given talent and ability to lead. If you have students like that, encourage the crap out of them to use those talents!
STEVEN: This is my third year leading a junior high small group. In the part of Southern California that we live, most of our junior high schools are only 7th and 8th grade, which means this is my second completely new group of guys. Why do I tell you that? Because I have had to grow close to and pass on a whole group of students. This was my first group, so they will always have a special place in my heart that I will never forget, and I honestly think they are the biggest reason for me deciding to go into full-time youth ministry. With that being said, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do when I let them move on to high school without me. I got so connected to those guys, I knew their lives, their families, their pains, their struggles, everything. When the time came to make a decision about moving on with them or not, I knew that God had placed me and equipped me to serve with (and put up with) junior highers. It takes a unique person, but I knew that it would be a sin to do something God hadn’t equipped me for.
When I finally made that decision, I knew there were two last things I needed to do for my guys: 1) Find them a good leader and 2) Make sure they stick together, no matter who their leader is. I knew that even if they didn’t have a hand-chosen leader, the most important thing was that they didn’t all break up and go their separate ways after the two years they had invested in each other’s lives. As it turns out, a really good friend of mine was in the market to start a new high school small group with freshmen, so not only did I get to keep them all together, I knew they were going to have a great leader to take them through the next four years. Finally, I made sure to meet with their new leader to “brief” him on some of the things I had learned about all the guys. That gave him a head start, rather than having to completely build the relationship and trust from the bottom up. Don’t just let your guys move on with no connection. They need to stay together in order to stay invested in each other’s lives and keep growing each other.
If you have seniors in your high school group, or 8th graders moving on from your junior high group, have you done all you can to prepare them? One day in heaven I want to be able to answer that question with a great big yes!