A few weeks ago now we had “promotion Sunday” at our church. Promotion Sunday is the time when our 8th graders graduate up into high school and we receive a fresh batch of brand new 6th graders into our ministry.
Here is a quick question that came to my mind this week: what are we doing for the students who have graduated out of our ministry? Once our students leave our youth programs, does that mean the end of our connection with them? For those of you who lead high school students, what is your strategy to reach out to your graduated seniors?
This week on the blog/podcast we’ve been talking a lot about setting students up for success so that when they graduate from our ministries, they won’t graduate from their faith.
What does it say to a student who never hears from us again after they leave? I believe it says a few things:
1) YOU ARE ONLY IMPORTANT TO US WHEN YOU ARE AT OUR PROGRAMS. When we drop all lines of communication when students leave/graduate/move/etc. I think our silence says a lot to students, especially when they leave for college. Since the stats show that nearly 50% of youth group attending teenagers fall away from the faith in college, think of what a difference it would make if we occasionally reached out and checked in with our graduated seniors to see how they are doing and offer some help & prayer.
2) GOD’S LOVE IS CONDITIONAL. If we only care for the students who are currently in our programs and drop all lines of communication with our graduated students, teenagers could view our friendship with them as conditional. And since our students look to their youth workers as examples of godly men & woman, they could begin to view God’s relationship as conditional as well. Students could adopt the notion that God only likes them when they attend church, or that God only wants to speak to them when they are involved in ministry. This could lead to teenagers who don’t don’t understand the gospel, but who have adopted the “gospel of sin management” as Dallas Willard puts it.
So what kind of things can we do as youth workers to stay connected with our graduated students without using any more of the time that we already don’t have? Here a some easy ideas:
-Send them a postcard letting you know that your thinking of them and praying for them.
-Post a video to their Facebook page of you are your current students saying hi.
-Cancel one of your normal youth ministry programs one day and have your current students bake cookies or brownies and then send them in the mail to your graduated seniors.
-Create a Facebook page for your graduated students and post a quick devotional every week as an encouragement for them.
What about your youth ministry? What do you do to stay connected with the students who have graduated out of your programs? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
Today I sat in on part two of Kara Powell’s Sticky Faith seminar based on her book “Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas To Nurture Long-Term Faith In Teenagers” and it got me thinking about my own youth ministry experience as a student growing up. When I was in jr. High and high school my experience of youth ministry was very different from what most youth ministries look like around the country today. Here is a snapshot of my experience of youth ministry as a teenager:
YOUTH MINISTRY OCCURRED ORGANICALLY EVEN BEFORE A FORMAL PROGRAM WAS INTRODUCED. Growing up, my church was not a large church. My church growing up wasn’t even a medium sized church. My church growing up was small! In fact, on our biggest day I think we tapped out at about 150 people. What I remember most about my old church was that it was one big family. We knew everyone in our church. Our friends were all from church. Our families all hung out and took trips together. And I remember learning about Jesus from a variety of different adults in our congregation from all walks of life. Even though we had no formal “youth ministry program” at first, our church welcomed teenagers as a real part of their community. We would go to the adult services with our parents and attend all-church BBQ’s together as one big community. Relational youth ministry naturally occurred because the adults in our congregation knew that it was their responsibility to care for, mentor and disciple the teenagers in the congregation.
YOUTH MINISTRY PROGRAMS NEVER BECAME A SUBSTITUTE FOR BEING ACTIVE IN THE LARGER CHRCH COMMUNITY. Eventually we had a youth program at the church, but these programs (midweeks, bible studies, etc) never became a “para-church within a church”. Teenagers didn’t have separate mission trips from that of the larger church, we just came with the adults on church wide trips. We didn’t have a bunch of separate fellowship events apart from the adults, but instead joined with the larger church to experience everything as one big church family.
In the Sticky Faith study, Kara and her team discovered that about 40-50% of youth group attending teenagers end up walking away from the faith after they graduate high school (click here for more information). At Sticky Faith, they postulate that perhaps one reason students leave the church after high school is because they were never really apart of the larger church, but instead have been segregated from the rest of the church by creating youth ministry programs that separate teenagers from the rest of the congregation. So what does this mean for our current youth ministry programs? Does this mean that we need to abandon current youth ministry models/programs or stop doing youth ministry all together? I don’t think so at all…BUT…I do think that as youth workers we need to find ways to build an intergenerational model into our church’s DNA. Here are some practice ideas:
1) Have an adult men’s small group at your church invite the 6th grade guys over for a BBQ one night.
2) Ask your women’s ministry leader to sponsor a “Girl’s Night Out” event where they invite the high school girls to join them for a fun activity with the other adult woman at your church.
3) Grab a few students from the youth ministry and have them help lead worship on a Sunday morning
4) Create a family event at your church where teenagers and adults can have fun and fellowship together as one big community.
5) At your church’s next men’s retreat, have the adults invite the jr. High or high school guys to come with them and learn/grow together.
What about your church? What simple things could you do to build an intergenerational model into your current youth ministry DNA? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
A few weeks ago our students were at camp and they had a good bit of time to kill. Some of them caught a nap, some played cards and quite a few students were just hanging out and talking. However, one student caught my eye.
She was reading.
Now the act of reading didn’t catch my eye, rather it was WHAT she was reading grabbed my attention: The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Wow! That’s a very weighty work to read in one’s free time at camp. I started to think about when I read that book and the conviction that it brought about in my own life.
As I thought about that book and discipleship in general, I realized how the 21st century church is moving away from pursuing discipleship. Some churches have classes on Sunday or Wednesday night called “discipleship”, but they barely scratch the surface as to what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We desire a relationship with Christ that is easy to pursue and that can be molded to our schedule. We want all the benefits of being a child of God but none of the difficulties. We take God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross and cheapen it. Bonhoeffer says it this way:
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
As a church we want the true blessings of the discipleship that come in pursuing Christ: spiritual growth, brotherly/sisterly love, community, an overarching purpose in life, unstoppable joy and a peace that passes all understanding. Yet, as a disciple of Christ we are promised persecution, trials of our faith, personal shortcomings, unmet expectations and backstabbing by those we trusted the most. Just like Peter, we want to pursue Christ as we walked on the water…
…but sometimes we sink. We fail. We are let down by our spiritual mentors. That expectation of sinking steers us away from getting out of the boat, but our pursuit of Christ isn’t about our expectations and needs. Jesus says: ” Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
That is tough to swallow. Jesus says, “I want you to follow Me, but you have to be ready to die to be My follower.” We don’t want to have to let go of everything in our lives. We like a lot of things and people, but count the blessings that come to us in Christ. He becomes our purpose, hope, strength, love, passion, foundation, guiding force, wisdom, trust, truth, healer and salvation. That’s not a bad list of blessings.
So when I count the cost of discipleship….I should also count its blessings.
(this guest post was submitted by COLLIDE STUDENT MINISTRIES . Check them out!)
This month our student ministry has been going through a 3-week series entitled “How To Raise Your Parents”. As I was browsing online at www.youversion.com I ran across a GREAT resource for students called the “Youth Bible Reading Plans”. Basically YOUVERSION has created a series of Bible reading plans specifically for youth.
This week on our youth ministrie’s website I posted a link to a Bible reading plan called “PARENTS” and I encouraged our students to download the reading plan on the phones and use it to dig a little bit deeper into what the Bible has to say about this subject. This could potentially be a HUGE resource for us to use in our student ministry. It’s a simple/easy/free way for our students to have a plan to read through the Bible focused around whatever series we are studying through. Check it out and let me know what you think! :D
Here is this weekend’s copy of “THE OTHER 6” for part two of our “A LOOK AT GOD’S BOOK” series on the Bible. . The “OTHER 6” is a jr. high student devotional based off of WILDSIDE’s weekend messages. Click here to download the newest “THE OTHER 6”! Pax, Rob
Here is this weekend’s copy of “THE OTHER 6” for part two of our “A LOOK AT GOD’S BOOK” series on the Bible. . The “OTHER 6” is a jr. high student devotional based off of WILDSIDE’s weekend messages. Click here to download the newest “THE OTHER 6”!
Without a doubt, last night was one of my favorite youth ministry moments of the year. Jr. high students poured in to our youth rooms not to play games, not to see funny videos, but to figure out how to grow closer to Jesus on their own in their individual lives. So what did they attend? WILDSIDE’s brand new program for student discipleship called “ilIFE”.
So what is iLIFE? Simply put it’s a program designed to encourage/empower/equip jr. high students to take the “next steps” in the relationship with Jesus by learning practical hands-on ways to grow on their own. Really it’s all about one word: DISCIPLESHIP! On of the goals of our student ministry is to give students the tools they need to grown on their own so that when they graduate from high school they won’t graduate from their faith. iLIFE’s official description is: A FRONT DOOR PROGRAM TO HELP STUDENT EXPRESS THE 5 BIBLICAL PURPOSES IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL LIVES AND HELP THEM TAKE NEXT STEPS IN THEIR WALK WITH CHRIST.
Here are some of the topics that we will be covering this year in the iLIFE program:
-Foundations of our faith/the church
-Bible study methods
-Evangelism/Sharing your faith
Last night our students learned about prayer/worship/bible study. At the end of the night we moved into a time of worship and it was amazing to watch the students in the room really begin to worship God (and know what they were doing) now that they had a deeper understanding about what worship was and who they were singing to.
What kind of programs does your youth ministry have for moving jr. high student into disciples? Share your ideas/examples so we can all learn from each other!
Hey there! Here is last weekends “THE OTHER 6” student devotional from WILDSIDE. “THE OTHER 6” is a weekly jr. high student devotional based off of WILDSIDE’s weekend messages. Click here to download last weekends for FREE!