Transitioning Seniors Out of Youth Ministry
It’s time to say goodbye to another senior class. What’s the best way to transition seniors into the next stage of their lives? You probably have your own traditions for sending off your graduating seniors. Take a look at those traditions and make sure they include honoring your seniors, preparing your seniors, and staying engaged with your seniors.
Honor Your Seniors:
My church intentionally schedules our youth Sunday for late April so we can honor our seniors. We have a tradition where we allow the seniors to give speeches that share how God has changed them through their middle and high school journeys. There are not many things more moving than seeing a senior who has been active in your youth program since sixth grade share about the programs and volunteers God used to shape his or her faith. This tradition allows seniors to reflect on their faith journeys, and it also shows the church community why youth ministry is vital.
[bctt tweet=”Senior speeches aren’t the only way to honor your outgoing senior class.” username=”ys_scoop”]
I’ve worked at churches that create an insert to include in the bulletin the Sunday before graduation. These inserts have a picture of every graduating senior along with a paragraph about their plans for after high school. Other churches give the seniors gifts during their last youth group meeting, such as a book or devotional signed by all of the youth leaders. No matter how you do it, it’s essential to honor your outgoing senior class.
Prepare Your Seniors:
Whether your seniors are going off to college or entering the work force, they all have one thing in common: they’re facing a major transition. Your youth ministry should support your students’ faith through this transition. One way to do this is to hold a seniors-only event where you provide resources for and education about maintaining their faith through this next stage of their lives. Make this a big deal by sending out personalized invitations to your senior class. Do your research ahead of time so you know what schools your college-bound seniors will be attending in the fall. On the night of the event, give each student a personalized packet with a list of the college ministries his or her school offers. In addition, talk through some of the reasons students struggle with their faith in college. Allow your seniors to talk about their hopes as well as their fears. Your seniors will be involved in a lot of end-of-high-school rituals, but this may be the one that most encourages them in their faith.
Stay Engaged With Your Seniors:
Your seniors are transitioning out of your ministry, but that doesn’t mean your time with them is over. You’re probably the person they’re closest to at church. Find out when their first week of college is, and give each of them a call. Tell them you’re praying for them and that you’re there for them. It’s a huge gift to your students to know they can call you if and when they hit rough patches. While you’re at it, call the parents of your students as well. It can be an emotional time for parents when they send their children off to college. It can be a major blessing for them to know that the church is there to care for them during that transition.
If you honor, prepare, and stay engaged with your seniors, they will feel ready to transition out of high school and into the next phase of their lives.
David Bonnema is the Associate Pastor at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa, FL. He received his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and his Bachelors from Whitworth University. More writings can be found at www.beyondthesermon.com.
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.