When our teenagers graduate from high school, our “shepherd” calling means they don’t graduate from our lives. Most churches offer very little for college-age students—that means your voice and presence in their lives is still primary. We care and connect with our kids, no matter how old they get!
So, you can extend your influence past cap-and-gown day in at least 8 ways…
- Build post-grad bridges. Spend focused time prepping your teenagers for the next step in their journey. We do this by inviting them on a college trip in January of their senior year, hosting a connection event during the spring, and then overlapping both high school and college ministry activities over the summer. But even if your church lacks a college ministry, hosting a seniors-only small group or taking a senior trip can accomplish the same result. The goal is to get them involved in something that compels them to stay connected with a caring leader after they leave home and when they return on breaks.
- Get college addresses BEFORE they leave. We do this by offering a small e-gift card to Starbucks or a fast-food place that has locations everywhere (something every college student needs). They complete the address form, and we send the card. Bribery works, friends! And if that’s not budget-friendly, send a self-addressed, stamped postcard to Mom or Dad and let them know what you’re trying to do. They’re typically over-joyed to share that information with a youth leader volunteering to help the college transition.
- In their first month away, send a personal note. Include a prayer, scripture passage, or memory that reminds them “whose” they are—and where YOU are if they need you!
- If they attend schools that are close-by, spend a few travel days over the semester to show up for lunch! They’re probably poor. Really poor. And most are definitely tired of college food. Gifting them with lunch off campus will give them a chance to open up with you.
- Over Christmas break, host a gathering that says “we knew you were coming home.” Chances are, over the holidays, attendance might be sparse. But the goal is to remind them that you see them, know them, love them, and are available to them. Consider planning a movie night or New Year’s Eve party, even if few kids attend.
- Pay attention to Spring Break schedules. Send a text the week prior to the break. It reminds them that you care, and that someone is paying attention to the details of their life. And while they’re home for Spring Break, host a get-together.
- Finals week is tough, so send a care package. Include fun snacks and/or caffeine, and an assurance that even during tough weeks, Jesus is near (and so are you).
- Host a “You Survived” small group over the summer. Have some fun. Study the Word. Build community.
We’re pastors, and that means our relationships have no expiration date. We’re called to shepherd, lead, care, build up, encourage, and love—no matter what season of life our kids find themselves in. Maintain your connection to them as they enter their college years, and you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of their unfolding impact on the world.