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18 and On Your Own—What Happens to Our Graduates?

Part One of a Series—Sustaining Spiritual Momentum After High School

What happens to our graduates after high school? Have you ever seriously considered this question when it comes to their life direction, their relationship to the pastor and church, and their spiritual support? We live in a culture that has verifiably extended the “teen years” well into the twenties—and churches have yet to respond! In fact, most pastors and parents literally have a mental “disconnect” when our kids turn 18—it’s as if we say, “Well, you’re 18 now, so you’re on your own.” Yet, if our young adults will stay faithful and seriously embrace God’s purpose for their futures, they will have to deliberately swim upstream against the multiple pressures of the culture around them—and they need our help to do so!

This is not an easy battle, and it requires a lot of encouragement and support, but it can be won! How can we come alongside of our graduates and help them navigate their late teens and early twenties? First, let’s take a look at what usually happens.

Understand the Progression

The progression away from God for high school graduates often takes on these eight steps:

1. Culture teaches them not to grow up.

2. Some church youth ministries have indirectly taught that God isn’t fun.

3. Many churches offer little or no focused, age-specific, spiritual support for someone after high school.

4. Graduates who don’t go to Bible college get jobs and start going to local colleges, often working on Sundays.

5. At their jobs and colleges our graduates face every kind of temptation and wrong friend.

6. These new and appealing connections and relationships draw them away from the “boring spiritual things” and a church where they have little connection.

7. The allure of the world, a paycheck, and a new level of “adulthood” promises freedom, pleasure and fun.

8. The process ultimately leads to disappointment and spiritual devastation.

We must lose the “you’re 18 so now you’re on your own” mentality. This progression is killing our kids, and in part two of this series, we’re going to discuss a few things we can do to help our graduates avoid it! Stay tuned!

Here’s part two!

Note: These articles are also shared in the April 2009 issue of The Baptist Voice—a subscription-based magazine from the ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College.

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  • Brother Schmidt I am so happy to see someone – especially someone with your influence – write something like this. In the 12+ years that my wife and I have taught youth Sunday School, I have seen too many youth leave our church, go off to college, get out of church completely. It’s as if they feel they have “graduated” from church.

    Most of the high school graduates who attend our church and choose to stay in Boone will attend Appalachian State University or the local community college. I’m happy to report that a majority of those who remain in Boone for college actually remain active in our church. This is mainly due to good support at home. The home support gives them accountability from family and friends that they do not have if they go off to college.

    The information in your article is good for parents of youth and for those of us who work with youth at church. I look forward to reading the rest of your comments.

    God bless you as you continue to serve Him in Lancaster.

  • Thank you for your input into keeping high schoolers after graduation. I lead our college and career ministry at Heritage Baptist Church in the San Francisco Bay Area and find our students facing the same problems that you iterated.

    Many of our students battle secularism at the local universities they attend such as UC Berkeley and San Francisco State. They are also facing the pressures of honoring God above their educations and jobs and even above their parents criticism (as the majority of our students are 1st generation Christians from Chinese-Buddhist families). On top of that, they are struggling to develop their core values as they face the pull of materialism and high paying jobs over the pull of God’s life calling.

    Two things that have really helped our students have been your books “Discovering your Destiny” and “Life Quest.” I taught DYD 2 years ago and am currently teaching a series based on LQ. Tomorrow night, I teach on part two of “developing a passionate walk with God.”

    I can’t express the joy it has been to teach these principles and to watch our young people grab hold of these truths and get excited about courageously embracing adulthood with biblical passion.



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