Well, its spring! Time for baseball, patio dining, and high school graduations. Spring is an interesting time for youth leaders. There’s the bittersweet end to the school year, which brings a myriad of emotions. For some youth leaders Spring involves planning mission trips and summer camps for their teens, and for some Spring ushers in a time of rest for those who have served faithfully throughout the school year. But for nearly every youth leader Spring means watching a handful of their students graduate from high school and leave the youth group.
Think about it: Your high school students have just finished 12 years of school and will never again need to get a parent’s note to miss a class. Each of these graduating seniors has encountered great feats of success in their lives. Each of them has successfully navigated from infancy to kindergarten; each has successfully navigated the awkward preadolescent years; and each has embarrassed themselves greatly at least once in high school. But seriously, these students have succeeded in graduating, and you as a youth leader were a part of their development. I want to implore you to remember that your work is not done. As excited as these graduates are about their accomplishment, there’s the potential for great fear to set in for these friends of ours. It’s the job of a youth leader after graduation to help these young people navigate their fear. For each of them, the future will potentially include a job interview or moving away to college and leaving everything that they’ve known.
I encourage you to share three nuggets of truth with your students as they graduate—encouraging them to do these three things will ensure that each student you served over the last four years will be on track to face the obstacles that will come in life.
Face your Fears
Generally fear manifests itself in two categories: healthy fear and dangerous fear. Dangerous fear keeps us from moving forward; it’s the kind of fear that keeps us from our potential and it’s the kind of fear that paralyzes us. Healthy fear, on the other hand, is the type of fear a mountain climber experiences; it is the kind of fear that reminds us to tighten our rope and take extra time in finding the right grip when we climb life’s mountain.
It’s important for graduating seniors to remember that a life with God doesn’t mean a life void of fear—but with God they are able to face their fears. Second Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and self discipline.” These graduating seniors have the opportunity to have a front row seat to how God will develop this type of spirit within each of them.
Forget Your Failures
The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the church in Philippi regarding their past failures: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God ahs called me heaven ward in Christ Jesus.” Paul refused to allow failures to become destructive in his life—he refused to allow failures to beset his journey on his way to his goal of glorifying Christ in all he does. Paul’s secret was simple: He put the past behind him and determined to have a positive mental attitude in life. The reality is that your students will face failures; none of us is perfect. The paradox is that the only people that never do anything wrong are the ones who never do anything. Its not a matter of “if” you fail, its “when” you fail, and what you do about it.
Walking with a student who is graduating means letting them know that they were made for something greater than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside each follower of Jesus who wants to walk on water—to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon ourselves to the great adventure of following God.
Follow Your Faith
Students following their faith post graduation helps them develop the key trait to walking through this life: perseverance. Again, it was Paul who wrote to the Romans and said, “We can rejoice, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment” (Romans 5:3-5). Our faith will lead us through the gauntlet of life, but God’s intent for this gauntlet is to continue his sanctifying work in us so that we are continually molded in his image.
Encourage your graduating seniors to run with purpose. Encourage them to understand that life is not a game of hopscotch. Life is a grand adventure and if they take hold of the Master’s hand in the midst of this adventure they are assured of a wild ride that will be far from boring, yet fruitful in the eyes of the Kingdom.
These three nuggets of truth will propel your graduates to their next life stage with confidence. Graduating from high school is one of those rites of passage that each child looks forward to and I encourage you to consider it an honor to have been a part of the life of these teenagers as they navigated some of the most difficult times of their lives.