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
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
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.
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
“The vision carries us when the days get tough,” Johnson
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
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
“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
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
- 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
- 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.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical
Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new
Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank
you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or
issues with items we run, please contact [email protected]
or call 919-847-2127.)