It’s not always easy to remember the turmoil our students experience during their senior year—getting the perfect pictures, working more hours than ever to save up, filling out the never-ending applications, and writing essays hoping they won’t be rejected. Our seniors are figuring out the reality of balancing life, and what was relevant to them last year in youth group is a back burner, “if-I-have-time” topic this year.
INVITE THEM TO CREATE A NETWORK
Senior students are sometimes scared to look forward because soon they will have to find new friends, change their routine, and re-balance their lives. Help them start learning those skills by exposing senior students to young adult life and ministry at your church.
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Take time to schedule a few outings throughout the year with just the seniors so they can enjoy time together, share how this year is shaping their faith, and maybe even work through a curriculum (I would suggest the Sticky Faith Teen Curriculum). If you have a young adult ministry, invite seniors to a few of their gatherings or on the young adult missions trip.
OFFER THEM OWNERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
I met one-on-one with my incoming seniors this past summer and asked them what Christ-centered message they needed to teach or show to others before they graduated. One senior told me she experienced God through music and wanted to leave a legacy by creating a worship event. After a few more questions, we had a plan. She has built a team of adults and students who are helping her with an Open Mic Fundraiser, the proceeds will support local families in need. She is taking ownership of her faith and using her musical talent to share her passion for Christ in a way that is meaningful to her.
About this time of the year, maybe next month at the latest, something difficult happens. The seniors in your ministry begin to “migrate to warmer climates.” Slowly transitioning to what is next. January may seem early in the year to be writing about losing your seniors, but the reality is that despite your best efforts (we gave you some ideas yesterday) to keep them around, the seniors are looking toward greener pastures, and we think now is a good time to think about the process.
As we talked about this migration phenomenon together, there were some good and bad realizations. Here are a few of them.
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Be glad it is difficult to say goodbye to seniors.
One of the things I (Josh) like is when I hear the youth worker’s voice catch when they talk about how much they love their seniors. I’m SO glad you care about your seniors and it pains you that some are slowly leaving before their time. You care! You love them! You are pastoring them! So while it sometimes sucks that seniors bail early, you are doing the work of Jesus and caring for his sheep.
Be glad they’re ready to more on.
It is hard to think of this as a celebration, but you should want them to want to leave. This is a good thing; they are ready for the next stage! If you’ve been at a church for a long time, this is the most painful; youth workers new to a church typically don’t let the door hit the seniors on the way out.