Five Easy Ways Churches Can Transition Kids to College
I remember in college how I worked endless hours on a specific final paper. I was sure I had crushed it and would get an A. There was one problem: I forgot to turn it in. I had completed the work on time and just forgot to drop it off at my professor’s office the next morning. I expended all of that effort only to lose points because I failed to follow through on the easiest detail.
Churches can commit a similar mistake when they fail to finish the drill with outgoing students. They can invest years in a kid’s spiritual life and then fail to help them transition to college. Adjusting to the spiritual landscape of college is totally foreign to kids. Helping students transition to college does not require much effort, but it can make an immense difference in whether or not a student is spiritually engaged in college or not.
Here are several practices churches can take to transition their students who will attend college.
(1) Dedicate most of senior year to college preparation.
During their senior year, I explicitly focus on critical topics related to college preparation. We will do a study on discerning God’s will in life’s big decisions; a series on apologetics; and a series on how to spend time with God in your devotional life. Regardless of your curricula, if you have a high percentage of students going on to college, I would be sure to constantly make applications to why biblical truths and imperatives are important in college.
(2) Build a network of pastors and college ministers at schools where your kids commonly attend.
Having relationships with ministry leaders around college campuses pays dividends in many ways. Because of these relationships, the campus pastors are likely to reach out to my students. Furthermore, when I have a student who is struggling, I have a trusted pastor I can connect them with. I have had students battling depression and anxiety in college and I’ve been able to rely on these networks of trusted pastors to help connect them to solid counselors.
(3) Call college ministers and pastors to let them know that you have students coming to their campuses.
A parent may be accused of micromanagement for this move but, as a youth pastor, it’s one of the best steps I make each year. In August, I will call and/or email the Cru, RUF, Navigators, Christian Union, Campus Outreach, etc. campus ministers or local pastors I know in order to let them know about my students who are matriculating to their campus. I pass on contact information and provide a basic profile of each student. I ask them to reach out to my students and invite them to their ministry. Without fail, I’ll have several students each year who got involved in a freshman Bible study or went on a fall retreat as a result of these calls. College pastors crave these easy opportunities to connect with freshmen. In general, I find that kids are pleased to be invited. It is through these calls that I have built my network of campus ministers around the country.
(4) Have a senior banquet with a panel that gives students realistic expectations about spiritual life in college.
It’s common for youth groups to have a senior banquet. One major component of ours is that we have a panel to talk about realistic spiritual issues that kids will face in college. We usually include the youth pastors and a youth group alum who is walking with Christ in college.
(5) Educate students about ministries and churches on the campuses they will attend.
At the banquet, we give each graduating senior a specific “college church and ministry game plan” which is focused on their particular future college. Through our network of college pastors, we are able to identify solid, bible-based, gospel-preaching churches to which we can direct students. In addition, we recommend campus ministries and provide the contact information of their pastor and interns.
This work involves some research and a good number of phone calls and emails, but it’s one of the most important things I do each year.