Last weekend was the last meeting of Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) with our graduating seniors. This meeting is always one of mixed feelings; sad to see them leave, thankful for all they have given to ministry in the Missouri Conference, and excited for what they will be doing in the years ahead.
It is important to honor and celebrate with our seniors as they transition to a new phase in their life. Most churches will do something to recognize their graduation from giving of gifts, breakfast, dinners, roastings, parties, and the list goes on.
Sometimes though the students and their families and the church sees this as another check off. We got them out of high school and they are now gone. There is very little contact between the students and the church. They do not connect with a church in the area where they go to school/work. Or they are staying home to work/school, but have few friends still around and even have little time between work and school to cultivate new friendships. The church no longer has a place for them. Oh, maybe during Christmas break they have a Sunday School class and a couple people show up.
This past weekend at a college conference they were talking about how scary the freshman year is. The church can be the one consistent place in their life. It is important for the home church to stay in contact. Have folks from the home church visit the college campuses, take the students for pizza, have the local church pastor, campus minister join in the pizza. Send the names and contact info to the campus ministers at the campus where students will attend. A contact list is on the web site. If there is no campus ministry, contact the local church in the community. If you have students staying at home attending junior college, partner with other churches in the area and develop a campus ministry group. There are a few local churches that have begun to minister to college students in community colleges.
When students graduate from high school, they do not graduate from the church. As we work together through our connectional church, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of students. We can continue to celebrate the ministry that they can offer. The greatest joy as a parent is to see your children grow into adulthood. The greatest joy as a church is to see our youth continue to be in ministry and make a difference in the world.