“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.”
– Harvey S. Firestone
Every youth pastor understands the challenge they face when students finally become seniors. They seem to unplug. They complain that the programming is “too young” for them. There are very few programs they want to connect to. Let’s face it, it’s the busiest time of their lives. Several years ago, when we transitioned out a large group of seniors, I started to ask myself how we could keep them plugged in while preparing them for what lies ahead. In a sense, we would use the transition ahead to keep them plugged in now. It seemed like a brilliant plan. But did we offer words of advice or did we give them the tools they actually needed to succeed in the next phase of life. I talked to many of our graduated seniors and asked them to be honest with me. What necessary knowledge did they miss out on that they wished they had learned prior to entering college or the work force? We found that many of them wished they had been better prepared in three major areas. So we began a new ministry called NEXT: the Senior Life Transition program. We knew that one of the first things a new college student would be asked to take part in was a party. So we designed Senior House Parties, a party held every 2-3 months at the home of one of our volunteers. We found people in our church body who had the knowledge and experience we needed to teach our students how to prepare in each of these major areas.
Preparation and Finances
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. NIV
It was amazing how many seniors just didn’t know where to start. They might have a general direction where they wanted to go, but they had no idea how to get there. In this first senior house party, we focus on teaching the seniors how to define their vision for their life and how to seek God. This party is always a wake up call. We ask them challenging questions as they transition into adulthood.
- How do you form a budget and pay bills?
- What are the dangers of credit cards?
- How do you sign up for financial aid?
We bring in volunteers with financial expertise that teach them how to manage their finances in the future, how to understand their financial aid process if college is what lies ahead for them, and more importantly, how to prioritize their income to include regular tithes and offerings.
Beliefs and Ethics
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. NIV
Then we found that many feared their way of life would be tested, more importantly, their faith. According to recent research, somewhere between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teenagers are leaving the church by their second year in college. We discovered many seniors came to this end result because they never took ownership of their faith. Many were “piggy backing” off the faith of their parents or their friends. When away from these influences, other influences took their places, and they succumbed to the temptations of the environments they were in. We brought in some amazing teachers that taught them how to maintain their faith outside of the youth ministry.
- What do you do if you find out your roommate doesn’t believe in God?
- What would you do if a teacher asks you to defend an atheistic author?
- What do you do when people ask you why you’re a virgin?
They best way to do this was to ask them situational questions. What would you do when faced with this situation? How can you prepare now for what lies ahead? Giving them the simple tool of knowledge gave them a confidence to face what lies ahead.
Church and Service
Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. NKJV
And finally, most were generally concerned with the process of finding another church and with the principle of membership in the local church. We found that if they did not go in with a plan to find a new church home, they would end up floating from church to church or sleeping in on Sundays. We heard all the excuses. I can’t find a church like my church. I am trying out churches right now. I just haven’t found the right one. There are others options out there other than going to a church building. We stressed the importance of connecting together with a church family, entering under the covering of a local pastor, and finally, serving God with your gifts and talents.
- How do I find the right church?
- Where should I serve?
- Where do I send my tithes and offerings?
Since the introduction of this program, our seniors have remained plugged into our program. They feel ready to face their new futures with assurance and confidence. And we as staff now feel the pleasure of knowing we have done all we can to prepare them for what’s next.