What would keep your teen from graduating from his/her faith when s/he graduates from high school?
After a couple decades of youth ministry and researching what works, my husband and I have learned that our students who are still living out their faith in church had these three things in common:
- Church Skill Set – When your student knows how to serve in some capacity in church, s/he can go to any church near his/her college or new job and say “Hey, I’ve been serving in Children’s Ministry…Audio/Visual… Welcome Team… folding and handing out bulletins” for four years and I’d love to serve here.” It gives students immediate ownership, accountability and a way to plug into church… a place to call home away from home.
- Big Church – Students often graduate from high school without any experience in Big Church (adult church service). Without spending time with adult Christians, hearing sermons geared toward adults, and worshipping God to big people music, students tend to think that all messages are focused on “relationships and making the right college decision” (geared toward them), and all worship music is guitar and turn-table driven. They don’t know how to become an adult Christian. They can’t relate personally to illustrations about raising a 5-year-old and how to serve your spouse even when it’s hard, so often the students leave church and don’t come back or come back when they have kids of their own. They need to be trained to listen to a sermon and trust that God will use it in their lives at a different time (training for the future not just for this moment) and that He may want us to hear a message simply to share with someone else. It’s also super important to discuss the sermon with your student to help him/her process what was taught to connect you spiritually and keep the spiritual growth going in your student.
- Youth Group – It’s not just for the fun of it, though that helps students connect. Students being with other students their age helps them process their faith in an age-appropriate manner. It gives them the chance to ask questions that pertain to their life and situations. It also provides them with support, a fun alternative to negative influences, and mentoring/discipling from trained adults who love Jesus and love the students.
The statistics are still (after decades) in the 80 percentile of students who graduate from their faith when they graduate from high school. However, those students are often missing one or more of these keys to keeping them plugged into Jesus and His people as they enter adulthood.
It’s a lot of work to disciple your students and try to keep them growing, but…
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9