The Summer Before College: A Graduating Senior Gameplan
If you’re in youth ministry, you’ve no doubt figured out that we play the long game. Our hope is to form life-long followers of Jesus, not just faithful high schoolers.
With this in mind, it is important to help set up our students well for success in cultivating a spiritual life post-high school. This transition can be tricky. Remember the days of arriving at college, having no clue where to find Christian community or what church to join? The following is a basic timeline we use to help introduce incoming college freshmen into on-campus Christian community and a church body, which you can modify according to your local school schedule.
Mid/Late May: Senior Night
On our Senior Night, we honor and celebrate graduating Seniors with a dinner and present them with a packet we have made for each individual student. Each packet contains a letter from their youth pastors, as well as a document we have made for them about options for Christian community at their future schools.
To do so we typically:
1) Ask trusted friends in ministry that live near the school for solid church recommendations
2) Use the TGC Church directory.
3) A good old-fashioned Google search and read some of the doctrinal statements on churches’ websites
On this night, we also give a talk about the importance of fostering a spiritual life in college and encourage students to commit to a church.
Early August: Contact Campus Pastors/ Current Students
In this phase, we call or email campus pastors about the incoming freshmen from our church. This might look something like: “Hey (campus pastor)! I am reaching out about (student name), who will be a Freshmen at (School name) this Fall.” We then say a few words about the student, giving the pastor a sense of who they are as well as a gauge on their spiritual involvement. We give the pastor the students’ number and tell the student to be expecting their call/text. This way, the pastor knows to reach out to the student and begin inviting them to ministry events.
We also get in touch with any former students who are on the same campus, encouraging them to welcome incoming freshmen from our church in their campus ministries.
Mid/Late September: Check-in Calls
During this season, the youth pastors call each freshman to check in on them. We simply ask them about how the transition has been and how they are enjoying college, making special effort to not ask them about what they are involved in spiritually. We do so because we never want to make students feel as if that is all we are after in wanting to speak to them or that we have a list and are checking it twice to make sure our students are behaving. We trust that the Lord will lead students to Himself on their campuses in His good and right time, we simply want our students to know they are still loved and cared for by their youth pastors.
Of course, with students we had an especially close relationship with, we make sure to periodically check in and ask how we can pray for them, etc. We make these calls, however, to every freshman, regardless of how close we were with that particular student.
December: Alumni Christmas Party
When students are home for Christmas break, we host a welcome home Christmas party for youth group alumni. The motivation for this is purely social; we want them to feel as if they always have a home in youth group. If seeing old church friends and connecting in Christian community creates a longing to be involved on their college campuses, all the better!
Please also see Five Easy Ways Churches Can Transition Kids to College.
We’d love to hear from you! What are some ways you prepare the kids in your ministry for the transition to college? Leave your ideas in the comments below.