Helping seniors develop a faith that is ready for college

Helping seniors develop a faith that is ready for college

Our Seniors Aren't Ready! It doesn't matter where you find yourself on the theological spectrum, there is huge concern regarding the complete abandonment of the Christian faith by our youth group students when they leave for college. There are movies like Divided, which see youth ministry as the main culprit for this loss of faith. And there are books like Sticky Faith, which want to reshape and redirect youth ministries to work more closely within the churches that fund them and alongside the parents of their community.

For as long as I can remember, there have always been an enormous exodus of students from the church the second they leave the comfort and confines of home and experience a world where there are no more boundaries, no more rules, and no more accountability to their former way of life. I find the statistics overwhelming and the actual students who choose to walk away heartbreaking. While I can not solve all the cultural or ecclesiological problems that contribute, I can be more proactive and intentional in the way I do student ministry so that my students have a fighting chance when they head off into the big, bad world.

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How do we advise our students who are dealing with those college rejection letters?

red_rejected_stamp_1600_clr1 For many of our students, their choices for what is next is starting to become increasingly clear. All of their hopes and dreams for life after high school are starting to mesh with the realities of G.P.A.'s, scholarships, and personal finances. It is one of the few times in their lives where they are objectively judged on their performance and work ethic, and are ranked, rejected, and accepted based on merit. And we as youth workers have an amazing opportunity to walk with students as they deal with this reality.

Or do we?

As youth workers do we have the right or responsibility to use the weight of our position to:

    • Affirm that they had no chance of going to that school?
    • Tell them that this is not a financially wise move?
    • Tell them that what schools will be devastating for their spiritual development?
    • Use their rejections as a teachable moment for their false self-perception?
    • Recommend a gap year to serve in ministry or the church?
    • Be directive in carrer planning?
    • Push a Christian School option on them?
    • Urge them to consider other college choices outside their families desires?

Or:

  • To simply walk alongside them oozing grace and mercy as they and their parents figure it out?

This month is a crucial month in the lives of our seniors. Our students now have all the choices of what next could look like in front of them. These are real life options and by May 1 they will have to decide for reals what they are going to do. It is a total pleasure, honor, and responsibility to be in these conversations. How we use our influence, wisdom, and experience matters. The real question is, "How much influence are we truly allowed to use?"

As I look at my calendar and have several meetings with students this week alone who want to talk about college, I am need of some real wisdom. I can feel the anxiety, fear, depression, and joy in my seniors and their parents exponentially rise as May 1 gets closer. I want to find that balance of being a wise counselor and discerning the work of the Holy Spirit, and letting students and parents set the depth of these conversations.

May we be good listeners, sharing God's goodness and grace and the reality that it is our faith in Jesus that sets our trajectory not the college we attend. No matter what next year looks like, God can be honored, their life can have purpose, and it is always who we are in our very being that is more valuable then who we are represented in our resumes!