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Serving Graduates for the Long Haul

Eventually, you’re going to see how it all plays out.

Right now, they’re teenagers. Tomorrow they’ll be in in college or starting a job… then growing into their early twenties, and so on.

You’ll watch from afar as all of the time you’ve poured into helping them know Jesus personally either gets scrapped or gets owned. Depending on the day, both may happen… maybe even at the same time.

You’ll grieve like you’re a parent. You’ll reach out like you’re a friend. You’ll be blocked and unfriended via social media like a you’re parasite. You’ll show up to the wedding like you’re an old mentor.

What can you do to serve them in the meantime… perhaps for the long haul?

One more sermon/talk isn’t going to be the game changer. What can have some long-term impact is something that is deeply relational and practical – like a spiritual cheat sheet that they can take with them wherever they go in life as an emerging adult.

Allow me to share the idea, and then explain why this is so important:

  1. Purchase a durable composition notebook.
  2. Write the student’s name on the cover of the notebook and attach their picture to it.
  3. Find some spiritually mature people in your church or the student’s life who are willing to fill up a page with two thoughts.
    • A summary of a time that they were inspired by something the student did or when he/she showed God-honoring character.
    • A word of godly wisdom on something that the students will be facing in life.

It really is that simple, and yet that complicated.  Some of the things we asked folks to speak into included:

  • At what point does entertainment become a time waster?
  • What will you need to know about new ideas you’ll hear about God?
  • When, if ever, is it wise to use credit to build credit?
  • How can you tell if you need to “end it” or “go for it” in dating?
  • What things are and aren’t worth procrastinating on?
  • What does an apology really look like?
  • Is church really necessary or really optional?

Obviously, this all hinges on finding the right adults who will speak sound truth into the student. It allows this gift to become a guidebook as they head into one of the most confusing seasons of their life. As their identity is tested and sifted, they will have this to remember who they are and who God calls them to be.

That’s why it matters.

About a year ago, I had a random-Holy-Spirit-prompted-urge to text a guy who had graduated out of our youth ministry a couple years earlier. I simply wrote, “Hey man… just want you to know for whatever reason it matters that I’m praying for you right now.”

At about 12:30am, he called me.

“I need to ask,” he began, and then paused. “So… why did you send me that text?”

He sounded worn out, as if he had been crying.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I just knew I had to stop what I was doing and send it.”

For the next hour, he opened up about how that day had gone wrong in every way possible. He explained how he was angry with his dad over something trivial that had become tumultuous. He shared how dry his soul felt, if he even felt his soul at all.

I asked, “Do you still have that notebook?”

The tone of his voice slightly perked up. “The one you gave me when I graduated? Yeah.”

“Will you take some time tonight to read that?” I asked. “There are some things in there that are worth remembering… things you may have forgotten about who you are and who God says you can be. Maybe you can go through that, and we can talk again in a few days?”

And he did. And we talked. And things changed.

And then they stalled again. And then they didn’t. And then he got back on track. And then he got derailed.

But that notebook is still on his shelf. He told me recently that he read it again.

Eventually you’re going to see how it all plays out.

Today you can work on giving them the tools they need for when it will happen.

What do you think of this idea?

What should go into a notebook like this?

4 thoughts on “Serving Graduates for the Long Haul

  1. Alicia Evans

    Love this idea and I will be using it for our graduating seniors this year.

  2. How many of these students then get connected to a campus ministry at the college they go to?

    • That’s a great question, Derek. I see that it depends on the student – we’ve found that it’s common for them to explore “something,” be it a church experience or campus ministry. Its stickiness depends a lot on all the factors you’d expect – the quality of that ministry, the readiness of the student, and more. It’s more common, it seems, that the students are hungry to rejoin us back home within our church when they are here on vacation or break.

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Serving Graduates for the Long Haul

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