Leaders can help students prepare for college
Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide
May 09, 2011

Leaders can help students prepare for college

Leaders can help students prepare for college
Laura Moore, BR Editorial Aide
May 09, 2011

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


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

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


  • 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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