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!