We all hear the statistics that explain how too many of our students who grew up in the church decide to walk away after they graduate high school. Although one could argue whether these statistics are accurate, we can all agree that even if a small percentage of students left the church after graduation it would be worth assessing how we can better prepare students in continuing to grow in Christ through the ministry of local churches throughout their lives.
One idea that we started using in our youth ministry is setting a specific time with our graduating seniors to individually have a conversation with them, which happens before they graduate and exit our student ministry.
What can a senior interview practically look like?
Last year, we told the seniors that we were going to set up a time to meet with each of them. Each of these meetings lasted around fifteen minutes and included the student, myself, and another member of our youth ministry staff. I would also possibly recommend having the student’s small group leader join the conversation if you feel that it is appropriate.
This meeting is a good opportunity to ask three categories of questions: the student’s understanding of the Gospel, their next steps in life, and details about their experience in our student ministry.
What About the Gospel?
The first category includes questions about the Gospel. This gives youth workers the opportunity to listen and assess where the students are spiritually as they take the next step in their lives. This should not be viewed as an opportunity to judge the student, but instead to get a deeper insight to knowing where they are at in their walk with Jesus, how they have grown, and how they can still be encouraged and assisted in the future.
What About your Life?
With the second category, ask students questions about their next step in life. This gives the church the opportunity to make sure that we have the information correct on what they are planning on doing next in life. It is an important component because it opens up avenues to keep supporting these students in the months following graduation. This question also allows those who are interviewing the seniors to encourage and guide them as they process this huge change and decision in their lives.
What About your Experience?
In the last category of questions, asking students about their experience in the youth ministry is very valuable. This gives us a window into the culture of what is actually working and what needs to change in our student ministry. These questions and answers also allow the students to feel like they can help shape our youth group for younger students who will remain in our youth group after these students graduate.
Senior interviews give a unique opportunity to pray for the graduating seniors. This time in prayer is important since we just spent some time talking about the past, the future, and eternally important topics, which can seem heavy at times for graduating seniors. It serves as the perfect time to listen, encourage, and then talk to God while praying for them in this unique setting.
Setting up a time to interview each of the seniors in your youth group may seem tedious and time consuming. However, I would encourage you to use this model and adapt it to the current culture of your youth ministry as a way to build a foundation that connects these graduating seniors to the church beyond graduation.
KYLE HOFFSMITH is the Pastor of High School Ministries at Old North Church in Canfield, Ohio. He is passionate about teaching students that true life is found in Jesus, breaking down generational barriers within the family of God, and equipping students to reach their schools with the Good News of Jesus. You can follow him on twitter @KYLE_HOFFSMITH.