1. Let them know this is only a beginning.- Our students need to clearly understand that this phase of their spiritual journey in our student ministry is only a beginning. They need to see that even though we focused much on what to do as a student so that they could follow Christ successfully in these formative years, these principles still carry over and apply to the other seasons of their life they are about to enter. I just feel too many students somehow think that just like they will never go back to high school,that they also will never go back to church because that was just something they did when they were younger.
2. Prepare them for what is ahead.- I was thinking about this the other day. I do not remember my student pastor ever talking about what I should do once I go to college or how to handle relationships as I grew older. Granted, I understand not harping on these things, because I had enough problems handling the temptations and issues I was facing as a student. But I also know that for a while I was bombarded with things that I was not prepared to handle. We need to take time to prepare our students for what lies ahead both spiritually and practically so that they are ready for the fight. We need to let them know about the big temptations they will face and the difficulties of making the right decisions when no one is watching you anymore or there to tell you what to do. This way, even though the choices will be up to them, they will at least have the tools they need to stand firm.
3. Empower them while they are with you. - It has gotten to where students no longer are leaving the church in college but instead their junior and senior years of high school. Again, there are many reasons for this, but I think what happens is that at some point they get tired of sitting. I believe our students want something more. They want to accomplish big things, and the world offers that to them, or at least a version of it. For example, schools give students many opportunities to serve and lead. And I think often times students get involved in that and feel valued and important and wonder why they should go to the church if they are not getting to do anything. Those opportunities are great because students are getting an opportunity to be a light for Christ in the world. But they also still need to be a part of the body of Christ. This is why I think we need to make sure that we empower our students so that they feel valued, take ownership of their faith, and understand what it means to serve in the body of Christ. This also helps them to take big steps in maturing in their faith. Please, make sure that as your students grow they are taking more and more ownership of their faith and your ministry.
4. Help them take their next steps.- We cannot hold our students hands through their entire life after they leave our youth ministry. But I believe we can and should help them take their next steps. As as student is going off to work or college help them find places to get connected. Help them get online and look for organizations they can join and churches in the area they can connect with. Help them place spiritual disciplines in their life and strategies so that they can avoid temptation. Because we do have to let go, but we at least need to let our students have a fighting chance in the process.
Transition is always a big thing but it is an important step. We cannot hang on to our students forever but it is important that as we let go we make sure we have done all we can so that our students stand firm in their faith and become leaders in youth ministry and the church as a whole in the future. Hopefully these ideas and the work you continue to do will help all of us turn the tide of students leaving the faith and in turn transform this generation and generations to come for Christ.