This is a response guest post to this article: Just-Graduated Seniors Serving in Youth Group: Too Soon?
There are few things more exciting than getting seniors to not just to be leaders, but to really buy into the ministry at their church. That moment where they turn into more than just a consumer, and a major contributor in the lives of other students. While most churches offer serve opportunities all year, it is different when you are just out of high school and leading.
I have read things such as Sticky Faith from the Fuller Youth Institute and the tools from Orange and the reThink group – it affirms both practically and statically that if we do not plug students in, their chances of continuing in church is slim. I deal and wrestle with these same questions when it comes to seniors serving. Currently, I serve on a church staff in its Jr. High Ministry area. For us, like most, getting new leaders with the passion, energy, knowledge and skill is not always easy.
The Pros and Cons from Geoff’s original post were great – it covered the bases of what we all should be considering when we look at seniors. However, when we move from looking at the plan to implementing a plan, there can be some growing pains.
We all want something. At our church we want a balance- to maximize the pros and cut down on the cons. Then, to look at the cons that we have left and create a platform to work on it, leader by leader.
The following is our plan for leaders, It is not perfect, but it is a start.
First: Identification of these students has to start early, and we cant be the only one looking. Include veteran leaders, other staff, and maybe even some parents that can speak constructively into the ministry. The goal is to identify and develop leaders, not to limit the process by including only one view.
Second: Once you identify some students, approach them about becoming involved. Let them know what you and others see in them. Begin with sophomores and juniors by providing small ways to get them ready for the senior year. Look for time that they can spend with leaders. Invite them to fourth and fifth grade events or to Jr . High nights. The goal isn’t for them just to have fun or socialize, but will give active leaders a great chance to identify some of the “cons” in the life of the student. This identification gives us the road map of what to work on on their way to senior year.
Third: Once our students are seniors, we bring them on as sidekicks with our Jr. High Ministry. They are partnered with an established leader who serves as a mentor to them in order to fill in the spaces of their training as the year goes on. As the senior student has questions, the leader answers it. As the senior makes mistakes or worries if they are “doing things right,” they have a mentor that works with and encourages them, and continues the developing process.
Once they make it through that senior year serving as sidekick, if they passed our standards that are in place for every leader of any age, they are placed with the sixth grade guys or girls. They are watched and still trained and developed, but basically, have a senior year of more intentional training time.
As an extra bonus and something that I would really love to begin doing, seniors would work closely with leaders in our fourth and fifth grade environment. The plan would be for the seniors to move up with the fifth grades to sixth grade when they both graduate. Talk about hitting identifying, assessing, developing and great transition into Jr. High all in one!
I would love to hear the ways that you do it. Leave a comment or hit me up.
Justin Herman is the Jr. High Minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Huntington Beach, CA. He has been in youth ministry for seven years. Justin speaks at camps and FCA meetings, writes, and is a social media fanatic. He was born in NYC, raised in Buffalo, educated in Missouri, and now lives in California. You can connect with Justin @HeyJustinHerman or Facebook.com/HeyJustinHerman.