It’s the end of May when we see a roller coaster of emotions from excitement about graduating to fear of the unknown future. Some choose the path of what everyone expects, while others choose to go their own way. Regardless where they go, our graduates need to know that they have a loving church family that is there to support them wherever life leads them.
There are things that you can do as a congregation to help them with this transition, reminding each youth that their home church supports and loves them whether they’re sitting next to them in the pew or are living thousands of miles away. As an example, here are a couple things we’ve done at my church:
• In the spring, we honor our graduates and present them with a blanket from our Threads of Love ministry to symbolize they are wrapped in our love.
• In the fall following their graduation from high school, we send care packages. The packages (2-liter bottles packed with food, fun, and faith builders) are mailed just after Thanksgiving so that those in college get it during Finals Week. We send a package to all of our graduates, not just the ones in college.
Many college ministries would welcome a receiving lists of students from their denomination moving into their area. I strongly encourage you to contact a college ministry in the destination town(s) of your graduates. The group/ministry can then reach out to the students as many have never had the experience of visiting a new church. It is a good idea to encourage your youth to experience different styles of worship by visiting other congregations as part of your youth group activities. Then it will not be such a scary experience when they move away. Attending church camp or going on Youth Mission trips with youth from other areas increases the chance that they might run into a familiar face in a new place so they will have someone to encourage them in their faith walk.
Some may go to college, others might go to trade school, join the military, start working, or who knows where their path will take them. And they might change paths once, twice, or many times. Don’t judge them; just LOVE them and pray for them.
by Mark Whitaker
Youth & Young Adult Director and Communications Coordinator
Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City MO (North of the River)
Advisory Board for youTheology / Marketing Coordinator
Loving God, Loving Neighbor