3 Ways Youth Leaders Can Support the Transition from High School to College
Going away to college is an exciting and challenging time. It gives young people the opportunity to seek new horizons, grow into their independence, and gain new meaning from their relationship with Christ. They have a new path ahead of them, one that they can forge with the help of a little wisdom and a lot of grace.
When it’s time to make the transition from high school to college, many students under your spiritual leadership will turn to you for guidance and support. Youth leaders play a major role in helping them both walk in faith and find their place as a member of the adult world.
Up to this point, a young person’s home church has been one of the pillars bearing the weight of growing up, and this transitional stage should be no exception. In your ministry with them, it is as imperative to recognize their developmental and emotional needs as it is to explore Scripture.
Here are three ways you can help reinforce their foundation with Christ and guide their journey:
LEAVE JUDGEMENT ASIDE
A study by LifeWay Research found that 70% of college students stopped attending church for at least a year between the ages of 18-22. The reasons that they cited reflect a shift in the way that students see the role of the church in the larger scheme of their life.
When young people come to their youth leaders and pastors seeking advice, they do so with the expectation that judgement and shame will be left at the door. Of course, as adults, we worry that one questionable decision will quickly escalate into another, but we must mask that in order to offer them the love and counsel they need.
The moment that a young adult feels that they can no longer trust in the church as a place of refuge and acceptance is the moment they will seek those feelings from other sources.
HELP THEM DISCOVER A NEW HOME CHURCH
One of the challenges for new college freshman leaving their home church is finding a new one that aligns with their spiritual goals. Providing resources and advice during their search lets them know that you’re going to continue investing in their faith even after they’ve moved away from home. Working through this process with them can also create the opportunity to build your ministry remotely.
You can also point them towards university programs that are rooted in the Gospel. While a secular campus will almost certainly provide opportunities that encourage their faith, Christian school, are built around this idea. Many schools, like North Central University of Minneapolis, make it a point to schedule events that bring people of faith together in praise and community.
At every turn, freshmen will find people who, like them, are facing the temptations of campus life while trying to maintain Christlike values. Encourage them to seek these people out, especially those who intentionally put aside time to grow in their faith.
Finally, understand that not every student is going to attend church as regularly as they had when they lived at home. College is tough, and time management is not a skill that comes easily. Soon enough, Sunday morning service starts to feel less critical than finishing an essay or attending study group. Instead of pushing them, help them discover strategies to continue honing their faith through reflection, writing, prayer, and charity.
STAY IN TOUCH
Moving away from home can leave freshmen feeling isolated and alone. They’re leaving behind everything that is familiar to them, all while being asked to act with maturity and wisdom beyond their years. Far too often, students also lose contact with their faith leaders. People get busy, phone calls go unanswered, and visits home become fewer and farther between.
Make it a habit to reach out regularly and remind these students that you’re always there to listen. Whether it’s celebrating an aced test or sharing Scripture that reminded you of them, a quick message will remind them that they are still in your heart.
You can even go so far as to make it a regular routine to send out a monthly reflection built around verses that are relevant to their struggles, or encourage them to post in a Facebook group made up of their friends and peers from home. Be creative and seek ways to maintain your commitment to their spiritual and social wellbeing.
Transitions are tough, and moving away to college is the first of many that young adults will experience. Keeping their foundation grounded in faith, no matter what that looks like, is of the utmost importance.
Keep in mind that these young people are getting their first real glance at what independence looks like. Respect their journey and be there to lend a hand when it times are tough. The fruits of your commitment to them will become evident as they begin to take on their own leadership roles and grow into the adult that Christ dearly wants them to be.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.