It’s fun to see all the different graduation pictures coming across Facebook on a daily basis. This is the time of year for nostalgia, joy and generous hugging. As a matter of fact so many school districts are represented in Jeffrey’s group that he has spent the last two weeks rotating through morning, evening, and Saturday graduations all over Atlanta. Due to Hurricane Sandy, our graduations in New Jersey won’t happen until the end of June. However, we had a big party celebrating our graduates just last week. Although, they don hats and robes each have asked nervously, “You won’t forget me right?”
While they are heading out the door of their homes, like a family member, they don’t really want us to go anywhere. . They need to know we are still around as they enter this next phase of growth.
How can we help them as they head off to school?
1. Help Them Check Ahead:
I know of one church that has a pastor on staff just to ensure graduates get off to college well. They research churches in the area, and Christian clubs at the school of each student. They call ahead to ask leaders to please welcome their youth . Bible studies are held for Seniors teaching them how to keep their faith in the midst of new situations. My ministry does not have the luxury of a full time staff person for this, however, I LOVE IT! Don’t send them away “hoping” they will plug in. Help them with some research, and make ways to get them involved right from the get go.
2. Become Part Of the Leaving “Process.”
Different students let go differently. Some will be stuck to your side the entirety of the summer before they go, while others have had a foot out the door for months. However, find ways to actively participate in what leaving looks like for each one. Go with their family to pick out items for their dorm room. Take them out for dinner the week before they go and tell them why they will succeed. Be family.
3. Pay Attention to The First Months:
Some students settle right into the college experience. For others everything is strange and difficult. Fall is one of the busiest times for us in youth ministry. It is easy to forget those that have left. As they make new friends, they need to hear from home, and this means us as well. Put it on your calendar to text them once a week with an encouragement, and a simple check in.
4. Actively Keep In Touch:
My Mom’s best friend sent me homemade baked goods on a regular basis my first year of college with a note that read, “I’m praying for you. I know you’re doing great!” The State University I was attending had roughly the same number of students as the population of my small rural hometown. I was intimidated to say the least. To know someone was thinking of me made me feel closer to home, and cared for. Not to mention getting mail in my small box, made me feel special. Send care packages, and handwritten notes often. Get church members involved as well. Who has a gift for this sort of thing that would love to organize some homemade goodies heading out to those far from home? On a weekly basis follow up on Facebook, Twitter and email.
The longer they are away, the less we hear from them. That’s alright and also a good thing. This means they are assimilating into this next “grown up phase” of life. Still, I think it helps them when we push them out of the nest well.
How do you keep in touch with your Grads?