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Seniors that Stick Around

Since last week was Kurt’s birthday, we thought this week would be a good week to write about seniors. Not senior citizens….the seniors in your high school ministry.

One of the sweet joys of this time of year is seeing students who “GET IT” really hitting stride as they head toward the home stretch of their senior year. There’s the other side of it, too (we’ll cover that tomorrow) but for today let’s talk about how to get seniors to stick around.

As we processed this topic, we came up with three key areas that seem to help seniors make it to the finish line. What you do with these—how you infuse them into your ministry or create programs around them—is up to you, but we think these will make sense as you process this topic this week.

GROWTH: Challenge them with senior-specific stuff.
What are your seniors getting when they come to youth group, small group, or Sunday School class? For most churches, the answer is simply more of the same. More of the same lessons and stories they’ve heard since they were a kid fidgeting all over and around the pews in the sanctuary. What would it look like if you had a new voice and / or a new focus for your student groups? What if you broke them out for a special youth group night occasionally or had a unique senior-specific curriculum. Give them something to look forward to that they can only get if they stay until the end of their senior year.

INVOLVEMENT: Give them a reason to stay.
Is it possible to help them stay through the end by also reserving special trips and service opportunities until their last year? In our ministry, seniors are the only high school students we allow to be eligible to be small group leaders in our junior high program. We’ve toyed with the idea of a fun senior trip or a missions trip that is super small but super awesome only for seniors. Seniors who have skin in the game are less likely to slowly fade away during their senior year.

EQUIPPING: Give them help for the next step.
The reason many seniors start looking for the door early in their senior year is that they no longer feel is it relevant to the stage they are about to enter. And part of that is true and healthy—but what if you took that last 3-4 months of their last year in high school and offered special field trips to visit other churches so they get a chance to see what it will be like to pick out their own church when they go away to school? What if you took a night of small group and researched churches around their college campus or investigated parachurch ministry presence where they are going to attend? If you are guiding them into their next step instead of “losing” them to it, they’ll likely welcome the support.

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Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!