One of our youth ministry innovations that is about 4 years old now is what we call the "Senior Summit". A few years back we attended one of the Sticky Faith Cohort Sessions at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the things we gleaned from that process was that we needed to prepare our Seniors for their next phase of life better. If you hadn't noticed, seniors in high school get pretty anxious these days during their last year. It manifests itself in all kinds of crazy. About a month after the conference some people at my church tried to see how we could walk with our students through the crazy.
Two of my volunteers, one an amazing teacher and single mom and the other an amazing mom and a radically committed school counselor, banded together to create what we called, "The Senior Summit." Essentially the Summit is a 6 week course that helps our seniors transition to their young adult years in life and faith. We have brought in local college professors to share, former students, and had separate breakout sessions for parents (who also struggle with these transitions). My biggest role in the whole project has really been to get out of the way. You can read an article that our counselor wrote for Fuller's blog here. But, it's the fruit that we are starting to see that is so impressive.
What has changed is that these two women now have connection with our post college students. They also serve as a kind of feedback loop to me dropping occasional stories about what those students are working through. This has in turn caused me to stay more in touch with our students each year than I ever have before. I think previously where many of our students felt like their parents, communities, and churches kind of made them walk the plank out into life, they now feel like we are rooting for them along the way. I think it has caused some of our other adults to realize that for better or for worse, this generation of students needs a faithfulness that doesn't stop with a high school diploma. This last week our middle schoolers wrapped up about 25 care packages to send off to our students at school. They prayed for each one and included a note during their Wednesday night small group times. We have received a number of calls and texts thanking us for this week and that too has provided another point of connection.
The lesson that I continue to learn in ministry is that the church's job is to remain. We need to stand there amidst all the crazy, the abandoments, the proclamations of disbelief, and how we should have done better and simply refuse to walk away. We lovingly must let others walk away, letting them do their crazy without being afraid, or wringing our hands, or constructing factory conveyor belt like programs to maintain influence and relevancy. There is after all nothing more real, tangible, and relevant than someone who just faithfully remains. Everybody needs a good harbor in life. One to help them re-fit. One to teach them how to sail in every kind of weather. One to receive them when they stagger back looking for a port. Two of my volunteers built one of those harbors and my church is learning how to play in it.