Several months ago, I was visiting one of our small groups that consist mostly of Juniors and Seniors. Discussion was lively, kids were sharing, but something seemed “off.” As they continued the Bible Study, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was until one of the adult leaders asked a question that required a more difficult answer. Silence. As the silence lingered until it became uncomfortable, the adult leader asked the students what their faith meant to them. More silence.
The silence continued and I realized that this group of almost adults, these strong leaders either didn’t know how to verbalize or didn’t seem to have faith “of their own.” They knew all the right answers, sure, but when it came to applying to their lives personally and living it out, they seemed completely at a loss on how to do that. What had gone wrong that these Juniors and Seniors–all active in youth program, attended small group regularly, traveled with us to gatherings and service projects–they didn’t know the answer?
That small group got me thinking about an average youth worker’s schedule at this time of year. It is jam packed with graduations, parties, baccalaureates and perhaps senior recognition Sunday at church. As graduates leave our youth ministries, our churches, and towns and begin to “make their way in the world,” I wonder how and if they will continue to grow in their faith journey.
This is not a new question by any means. Statistics show that many, if not most college students, once they leave their homes also leave the church and few return. As students enter college and step away from the carefully constructed boundaries of high school and youth groups, what are we giving them to help prepare them for that journey?