College is a wonderful experience for many young people. However, the final semester of a student’s senior year can be a difficult time as they wrestle with what life will be like after college. The emotions can range all over the map: from excitement and expectation to anxiety and stress. The latter seems to be more true these days.
Not only are seniors isolated from their community, but they are entering a job market that bottomed out due to COVID-19. This is not the most optimistic time to graduate from college. The good news is that they are a part of YOUR church and your church is a beacon of hope for them!
So, how do you send off our quarantined seniors well? I sat in a Zoom room recently with some national ministries as they discussed this topic. I decided to take what I learned and boil it down into a game plan.
Find a way to connect with your seniors. You can have an all seniors’ Zoom call or touch base with each senior one-on-one. Ask them questions to see how they are doing and how they are handling their final semester of college. It’s important for them to know that you love and care for them.
One leader told me that during this time they increased their connection with students more so than before COVID-19. Find a way to make consistent connections as seniors finish their school year. If there are any other adults in your church that have connected with them, reach out to them to see if they will connect with the seniors as well. The more touch points the better. Here are some questions to ask:
- How are you processing this final semester?
- What are you most bummed about?
- What are you looking forward to after graduation?
- What can I do to help you as you graduate?
Make sure you listen to them, really listen to them. Don’t be afraid to talk about light hearted topics as well. This can be simple things they are interested in.
Give a Gracious Gift
Find some way to give them a gift. It can be a book, a gift card, a shirt, or a card. It really needs to be anything of some value so that they can see that they have a church that loves and supports them.
I highly recommend J.D. Greear’s book Gaining by Losing. It’s a fantastic read as your seniors prepare to graduate. It will help them calibrate their mind and heart to see themselves as sent and not merely as leaving the college ministry. Here are other book ideas:
- After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationships and Faith by Erica Young Reitz
- Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
- The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins (This is not a faith-based book but is a helpful resource for them as they start a new job)
Assess their Experience + Build a Bridge
Write up an “exit interview” for them to walk through, and try to get their honest thoughts. Let them know their feedback is valuable to the ministry. This is a fantastic way to honor them and to get great feedback on how to make your ministry better.
In your assessment, ask them where they are going after college. If they are staying local, help build a bridge to keep them connected to your local church. You can do this by connecting them to whoever leads the young adult life stage in your church. Offer to connect them via a text. If they are moving away, research churches in the area they are going and give your research to them. This will increase their chances of getting connected quickly to a local body. Here are some questions you can ask in an exit interview:
On scale from 1-10 (1 being not at all and 10 being absolutely):
- Did you feel cared for in this ministry? Provide an example.
- Was your faith challenged in this ministry? Provide an example.
- Did this ministry feel like family to you? Provide an example.
- Do you feel more equipped as a disciple because of this ministry? Please explain.
- Do you feel like you are better equipped for life after college because of this ministry? Please explain.
- Are you staying local or leaving after college? If you’re staying, can I connect you to our young adult leader?
- If you are leaving, what city will you be in?
- Have you researched churches in that city?
- Are you okay if we send you a list of recommended churches in that city?
- Any last comments about the ministry you experienced while with us?
Whatever you decide to do, leave them with hope. This can be a discouraging time to graduate college. They were cut off from their school, don’t let them be cut off from their church. Lean into them, love them, and celebrate them as they enter their next phase of life.