Helping young people with life-transitions is a blessing. Personally, I love it! It is a time of excitement, hope, and learning. As the church, we are in a wonderful position to speak into and assist in these moments of transition.
In youth ministry, we typically focus on the transitions happening as teens graduate from high school, and with good reason. For most young people, this is the time that signals them leaving their family home and heading to college, work, or military. It’s a major life shift that youth ministry can support in various ways.
In my church and many others, we have found great benefit in doing an event(s) toward the end of the school year to help your young people “adult”. Called Senior Sundays, we help prepare for life after high school in practical and spiritual ways. These events typically go over how to budget, change a flat tire, do laundry – all great skills!
However, we may be forgetting some transitions and transitional skills and that we can and should be speaking into & assist in developing.
If you are looking to help support young people in their transition post-high school, there may be obvious skills, but there are less obvious ones as well. Here are 5 of those transitional skills you might not think of developing:
1. Time management
Time management can be easy growing up. Schedules are set for you by someone and, typically, someone is making sure you are adhering to the schedule. That might be a coach, parent, teacher, school bell, etc.
Life after high school is totally different. Jobs aren’t calling you in the morning to make sure you are up and coming in. Some might not even call the first few times you miss work. College professors aren’t checking in if you miss class – and depending on the college, might not be taking attendance. If you are living independently, no one is going to wake you up to get to worship on Sunday morning.
Encourage young people to use a calendar or schedule app. Talk about how we often schedule things that are important to us. Encourage them to schedule time to be in worship, God’s Word and prayer!
2. Dating Out of the House
When young people transition out of the house, dating really changes. When living at home there is less opportunity for certain *ahem* activities to take place. That is not the case when they move out of the house.
Sure, kids can be sneaky and unfortunately always have been. But those temptations of the flesh become a whole lot easier to act upon when they don’t have mom, dad, or close Christian friends to keep them accountable.
If they live in on-campus housing at a public university, some information and supports for sexual activities may be readily available to them for free. People around them may be engaging in sexual activities and encouraging them away from sexual purity.
Help young people prepare with this transition by explaining the importance of and how to set boundaries. Have them write those boundaries down! Talk about good qualities of a boyfriend/girlfriend, how that leads to our spouses, and have them consider what qualities are most important to them. Help them find the best way to talk about the boundaries and past dating history with those they date seriously. Overall, foster meaningful conversations about how to manage what happens at colleges & universities, casual dating, hook up culture, and more.
This could be its own article. Life is, unfortunately, filled with disappointments. For young people that can include: Failing a test. Being dumped. Not being named a team captain. Having something taken away unexpectedly (think Prom 2020). Not getting the job they applied for. Not getting into their preferred college.
Gen Z is an achievement-oriented generation so failure and disappointment may hit them harder than previous generations. Walk alongside young people in these times and listen to them well. Help them process why they are disappointed, how they can move forward, and potentially what they could do different/better next time. Even more importantly, point them back to their identity as Baptized children of God who are loved and saved despite what we do or achieve.
4. How to Manage a Household
Something I always try to show the young people in our pre-graduation activities is how to do a load of laundry. But, what about other ways to clean? Not every young person knows how to use a vacuum, or how to sweep, or mop… or dust… or fold laundry… or do the dishes properly. Show them how to do some of these skills. Make it a competition or relay race or something fun. Help them see that being cleanly is a good thing and how they can achieve it.
It also is important for them to know what goes into leasing an apartment and the expectations of landlords and renters. It can be helpful for them to know basic home care like the location and purpose of a breaker box or how to plunge a toilet. If they have roommates, it can be important to discuss what expectations are for shared duties like cleaning since they may come into the house with different expectations.
5. Shopping and Nutrition
My mother-in-law, a dietitian, will be happy to read this one. Talking with other church workers & Adult Leaders, I have found that discussion on how to make food is part of many preparing for life after high school events/programs. That is great – do this if you aren’t already. However, something we should be talking with young people about is nutrition & eating (relatively) healthy.
It’s one thing to show kids how to make mac & cheese. It’s another thing to show them how to make a vegetable taste good or share the importance of eating a fruit every now and then. Our bodies are a gift from God, and we should be good stewards of them.
Tied to this is shopping. This was something my pastor recommended I talk to youth about when we started Senior Saturdays a few years ago. I was a bit surprised by the suggestion because I thought shopping was relatively easy. He then told me the story of one of his children calling him when they were in college at the grocery store, nearing a nervous breakdown, because they didn’t know what to put in their cart or how to go through a register.
I then asked the seniors at one of our get-togethers if they knew how to shop. 4 of the 7 admitted they had no idea. We talked for over an hour about what kind of things you need to buy when you live on your own: food, toiletries, cleaning products, etc. We then went to the local Wal-Mart so I could show them where to find everything and how to go through a check out. This can get tied to budgeting and stewardship as well so they know how much to spend on typical items.
Partner with Parents
Everything on this so far are things you can talk about, model and discuss in youth ministry. But the church should be assisting, not being the leader, in planning for these transitions. We may be creating an unknown, unseen problem when we take point on these preparations.
The second year I had Senior Saturdays I received an email from a parent. The email wasn’t rude or nasty in my opinion, but it wasn’t what I expected. The parent shared how she thought I was overstepping, taking away responsibilities she and her husband were already doing that she felt other parents needed to do. “This isn’t your job Blake,” concluded her email.
We can sometimes get so caught up in caring for youth, that we work independently of parents. We forget that God has placed parents in their lives to teach, lead, and prepare their children for all life has in store. It might save you a few emails and headaches to give parents a heads up that you plan on showing your young people how to do laundry, how to fix a tire, and more. Even more, engage parents in these learnings. Invite them to join you for certain sessions, especially ones where they have expertise. Give them ways to talk and continue to preparation at home if they are worried about handling it on their own. Work together so that all the young people in your church may be disciples of Jesus for life.