Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Your Graduating Seniors Might Show You About Your Youth Ministry

In the next days and weeks, youth workers across the country will be processing through one of the bigger events on their ministry calendars.

Senior graduation.

It’s a whirlwind time that can hold a variety of different emotions all at once:

  • stress caused by additional responsibilities at an already busy time of year
  • happiness and pride for the life transition students are entering into
  • sadness that this new stage for students means a change in your relationship, and
So on....

So, it’s an important time. But it’s most important for the possibilities that exist for evaluating your ministry. What do I mean? Glad you asked . . .

Your graduating seniors may represent a chance to evaluate your youth ministry strategy.

While it’s by no means cut and dry, by looking at your seniors, you might just get a glimpse into what students look like having come through your youth ministry. It could be an invaluable way of thinking about your strategy and approach.

Here’s what I mean . . .

Think about your graduates. Think about them as a group and as individuals.

As a group, what values do you see them holding that you worked to instill? Are they passionate about the poor and needy? Are they serious about leadership? Are they committed to evangelism? If they have held on to these values, it’s affirmation that you are doing an effective job of teaching, modeling, and placing an important emphasis, and/or that you are partnering with their parents to keep these themes present in their lives.

As individuals, do you see the effects of your disciple-making strategy? Do they have a passion for God’s Word? Are they committed to living out their faith at school and in their extra-curricular activities? Do they value service? Do they openly talk about their faith? If you can look at your individual students and see signs of the faith development that you and their parents have lead them to develop, then you can have a measure of confidence that your Spirit-led efforts to lead students in discipleship are on the right track.

But what if you look at your graduates and don’t see a group of students who share some or most of your values? What if you don’t see individuals who have grown in their faith?

Again, there are quite a few factors to consider. Maybe you’re relatively new. Maybe you didn’t spend all or most of the time with your graduates over the course of their time in youth ministry. And certainly, you can’t take too much credit or too much blame for the development of your students. Their parents have more to do with their faith development than you. But there are still takeaways when you look at your graduates and see some holes in their spiritual development:

Fine Tune Your Existing Strategy -
If you’ve been with your graduates for a few years, and see spiritual areas in their lives that aren’t as developed as you like, you might want to make a change in your ministry philosophy. Consider programming and relational approaches that address the specific discipline you find lacking.

Implement A New Strategy -
Maybe you are relatively new. Looking at graduates, you see some things that you would like to address. Maybe it’s time to introduce your own strategy, change some things up, and focus on a more comprehensive approach to making disciples. It’s a good occasion to kick off a conversation with your leadership.

Build A Better Bridge To Parents -
In a perfect world, you are a resource for parents, supplementing their efforts at making disciples. We all know that this only looks like this in a small percentage of students. To see students leave your ministries as spiritually mature disciples of Christ, you need to have an active partnership with students’ parents. Maybe it’s time to lay out the strategy of being more holistic in your approach to discipleship by building strong, equipping relationships with parents.

While it’s not a perfect science, and while there are a variety of variables, your graduating seniors do offer a glimpse into your youth ministry values. It’s information,
data, if you will. And the challenge is determining whether or not this data can help you facilitate a more effective youth ministry.

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