Leaders can help students prepare for college
    May 9 2011 by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide

    The “Transitions” conference held by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) on April 14 dug deep into the tough topic of how to help young adults transition from youth group to college life. In the student ministry room of Hope Community Church in Cary, youth pastors and leaders from North Carolina congregated to learn and discuss the topic.

    “It’s a hard transition from youth to college and we need to guide them,” said Angela Mahoney, minister to students at Faith Baptist Church.

    Tracy Holloman, a youth leader from Parkwood Baptist in Rocky Mount, agreed and said it’s easy for young adults “to get on the wrong path. They can be way down the wrong path before they realize they’re down it.”

    Merrie Johnson and Rick Trexler, the BSC’s youth and collegiate ministry directors, partnered to present their perspectives as well as research about what is happening to America’s teenagers as they leave their church community for college.

    BR photo

    Rick Trexler, collegiate ministry director for the Baptist State Convention, speaks to youth leaders at the “Transitions” conference.

    Johnson highlighted that 70 to 80 percent of young adults drop out of church right after high school, and only around 25 percent come back, usually when they start families.

    She encouraged the youth leaders to ask themselves where words like “vision,” “strategy” and “values” fit into their programs. Vision is vital for teens during their senior year of high school. They need to formulate a vision for their next four years before they arrive at college. Using Matthew 16:13-17:1, Johnson demonstrated how Jesus had an intentional relationship with His disciples that involved vision, and He would not let anything derail him from it.

    “The vision carries us when the days get tough,” Johnson said.

    Before high school seniors face a lot of change, they need a youth ministry that has equipped them to be Bible centered, developing as a leader, and evangelistic.

    College can either give you faith or end it. Johnson emphasized the importance of youth knowing the importance of faith before leaving the nest.

    In reference to 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, she added, “Vision keeps us focused and disciplined to win.” She said it’s important for leaders to ask:
    • Do they know the basics of what they believe, and can they share their faith with someone else?
    • Have we challenged them to be mentors to younger teens and build the skills that they need to stay strong?
    “The generation of today really want to be challenged, and we’re often times not raising the bar,” said Brad Lee, youth pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. “When we do they rise up to the challenge.”

    Rick Trexler presented four words — Community, Depth, Service, and Connecting  — determined by LifeWay Research as necessary points to reach teens for Christ in a way that will stick with them. “If we’re going to reach this generation, it has so much to do with community,” he said.

    In reference to developing depth with students, Trexler posed the question, “Are we teaching topics or are we teaching scripture … are we actually living life with them?” Finding ways for youth to connect with someone older is vital in helping them to understand and place value in the gospel, Trexler said. When youth feel more connected and are given the opportunity to serve in their community, they are able to see what that community is based on, Christ, and that they are part of it.

    Leaders and pastors were given the opportunity to work together in groups based on youth group size. As they discussed and compared strategies, they were able to network with each other as well as hear about what is working and what isn’t with youth groups of similar sizes and church dynamics.

    “You can change the world more through your youth than your seniors because they are the future of the world … and they are the church of the now,” said Alan Whitley, associate pastor of Parkwood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.

    Many suggestions were given such as training seniors as future leaders the summer before they leave for college.

    Johnson shared how her family commissioned her son Mac as a missionary to his campus before he left for college. Trexler and Johnson encouraged leaders to commission their graduating seniors to do the same, instilling in them vision and confidence that they are part of the body of Christ.

    Help students transition
    • Send them a letter their first week of college to encourage them.
    • Offer to help provide them with materials in order to lead a Bible study at their university.
    • Invite your college freshman to come back for a visit and help with the current high school seniors.
    • Take high school seniors on trips to different university Baptist Student Unions so that they can meet leaders and learn about college Christian opportunities.
    • Offer to help them in the process of finding a church where their school is. They have never had to find a church before and may really benefit from the guidance.
    • Collegiate is a LifeWay publication for young adults that includes Bible study lessons college students could use. Consider getting them a subscription as their graduation present.
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    5/9/2011 6:03:00 AM by Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide | with 0 comments

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