One of the big questions in ministry circles today is “How do you equip students to carry their faith into College and adult life?”. There have been some great research and voices to this conversation, including a work by Chap Clark and Kara Powell at Fuller Youth Institute called “Sticky Faith“. They speak to the level of involvement in a youth group during high school years and how it translated to a student remaining in church once they leave high school. I highly recommend you read this if you are a youth worker or parent of teenagers.
I don’t have large numbers for research, but I can share share a story close to home. I recently reached out to Kurtis, one of my former youth students in Indiana. He was involved in the youth ministry I last served in. He was one of my leadership students. He graduated high school and now attends Purdue University. When he hit campus, he became highly involved in campus ministry efforts there. So I posed the question, What made the difference for you between remaining in church and walking away after high school? Here is what Kurtis had to say:
My home church youth group was a big factor into helping my growth as a Christian and helped me prepare for my faith in college. I still use techniques that I had learned at conventions and youth group to share my faith and disciple my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have my youth group to thank for helping me get started!
Just as a little back ground, I was raised in a small rural town in the middle of nowhere and I am currently a sophomore at Purdue University. So to make the transition to a school that my class size alone was few time bigger than my whole town was definitely intimidating. Where do you start searching with such a huge campus?
Fortunately, my church sponsored a ministry in a more local college. While I was in high school our youth group did a project to help the college ministry and in doing this project I befriended the college ministers there. They were able to connect me with a ministry at Purdue’s camps that gave me somewhere to at least to try out. I can say to this day I haven’t left that ministry and I am currently serving there. All thanks to my youth group doing missions.
The leadership opportunities I had in youth group have also helped me with my life in college. Since being a leader in my youth group the last couple of years I have been able to do training for my peers and lower classmen with evangelism. Not to mention the leadership retreats that my youth group has participated in were good resume fillers. I was able to discuss my leadership roles in youth group in an interview for my first college internship! With what I have learned in youth group still helps me be a shining light of God’s glory to my co-workers and peers.
I greatly appreciate what youth pastors do. Whether it’s a late guys night out or diving into God’s word with the tough questions. You all a huge encouragement for us college students as we look back at the generations behind us! I couldn’t have gotten to where I am now if it weren’t for some youth pastor than had a passion for helping youth! I thank God for what you all do! Stay steadfast in where has but you, and God bless!
As you equip students to impact the world for Christ during and after high school, my hope is that you will consider some of the factors that “made the difference” for Kurtis.