There is no doubt that this is an exciting time of the year.
As you look back at the countless hours invested in each student, you pray that he/she will continue in church, seek the Lord, and mature in the faith.
Unfortunately, according to statistics, students who actually accomplish this feat prove the minority.
According to this study, and similar ones, church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history. This proves drastically low among millennials described as 22-35-year-olds.
- Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
- 59% percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
- 35% of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
- Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).
Even though these findings specifically discuss Church, it still warrants a discussion with your graduating students about their faith and what they will do to foster it when they embark on the next stage of life.
This is no time for a pat on the back and a simple “good luck!” You should make it a goal to discuss the following questions with each student graduating from your youth group.
Do they really believe what they’ve learned about God?
You’ve sacrificed countless amounts of time and money pouring into these students, but have they really grasped what you’ve taught?
Growing up in church, it's easy to "play the game." Students memorize verses, tell the story of salvation, perform in the Easter play, say they have faith, attend youth regularly, ect., but do they believe deep in their soul what they’ve learned?
- Do they really believe Jesus is the son of God and died to save them from their sins?
- Do they really believe God has a good plan for their life?
- Do they believe the Bible "stories" and that the Word of God is true? Can they still believe it if someone tells them they’re stupid or that the Bible is false?
- Have they actually given their life to the Lord?
Each student needs to determine if they have a genuine belief or if they’ve been “playing the game.”
Do they believe that sin can really destroy their life?
James 1:14-15 (NIV) states, "14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
The severity of sin is a concept likely covered multiple times in youth, but do they believe it?
The temptations students face in the next phase of life will be harder to resist because they won't be "answering" to you or their parents. Are they strong enough to stand against the temptations of our modern culture and remain on the word of God even if it costs them “fun” or the “college experience”?
If they don't believe sin will destroy their life, they will give into temptation and it proves critically important that each student realizes this.
Am I going to continue to pursue God and go to church after I graduate and leave home?
Student’s must realize that learning about God doesn't stop at graduation. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) states, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." This shows that spiritual growth is continual.
They also must realize for themselves that continuing in a church is also vital to spiritual growth. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) relays, "...not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..." The Bible makes it explicitly clear that we are to come together with fellow believers on a consistent basis and there's no better way than the church weekly gathering.
They may be tempted to “take time off” because church is what they’ve always had to do. On another hand, if a student is attending a Christian college that requires chapel, they may not feel the "need" to go to an actual church gathering every Sunday.
They need to be careful of these thoughts. As the statistic stated above, 59% of millennials raised in church will never return. Each student needs to make sure they realize the importance of the Church and to be diligent in their search to find one wherever they may be moving. You can help them in this process as well by searching online and giving recommendations.
We must help our students realize that having a firm grasp on their faith and beliefs will discuss them with each graduating member of your youth group.
At times, it may seem uncomfortable or slightly intimidating, but we cannot let them leave simply hoping they’ll make the right choices. We need to ask the hard questions and make sure they understand and take to heart the faith we’ve spent so much time teaching them.