May 07, 2009

Helping Graduates Prepare for the Future

Written By Cary Schmidt

A Tool to Help High School Grads Understand Their Own Hearts and Direction

I’ve not been able to write a blog post for a while due to year-end events with our graduating seniors—which leads me to thinking this might be a helpful subject. I want to encourage pastors, youth pastors, principals, and those who work with students to have a “senior appointment.” We have sit down appointments each year—one on one—with our graduates to speak openly and prayerfully about their future plans. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see where the Lord is directing their hearts. Let me first share a few thoughts about the appointment, and then a tool that I have found helpful for the appointment.

1. Make sure you are preparing them for the future all through high school—this isn’t the first time we talk about their future, but rather it’s the culmination of a lot of teaching series and mentoring on how to arrive at biblical decisions.

2. Have only God’s agenda for your students—since we have a college on campus, many students and parents automatically assume that we “pressure” every senior to attend WCBC. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This appointment is pointless if you have any agenda other than helping them seek the Lord, get counsel, and supporting their family in the process.

3. Seek to discern the heart direction, not merely the surface decisionshow and why a graduate is making a decision is usually more important that the decision itself! I’ve seen many merely conform to what they perceived to be the expectations of others. Graduates can do “good things” the wrong way or for the wrong purpose. This appointment needs to help them discover their own heart—their logic and reasoning—and expose whether it is biblical and spiritual or not.

4. Stay in bounds regarding God’s appointed authority—make sure you are supportive of parental and pastoral authority. Never, ever go against parents who are giving direction (except in the rare and extreme case of blatant disregard for biblical principle.) If your opinion is in disagreement with an authority figure—go to the authority and discuss it. Don’t become a wedge between a graduate and other authorities.

5. Accept the level of influence given to you—every graduate and family to whom you minister will grant you somewhat of a different amount of influence in their hearts and lives. Don’t resent those who give you less than you would like, and don’t poorly steward the higher trust that others may grant to you. Accept whatever spiritual influence you have with a student and family, and use it for good and godliness.

6. For those who have no direction, help them craft a plan to find God’s direction—many graduates have little or no direction. Their plans for the future are non-existent. These are the kids I fear for the most! It’s the drifters that usually mess up their lives the fastest. For these, focus on helping them see the need to find God’s direction. You can’t force them into a preferred direction, but you can exhort them to pursue a process of seeking God—and that may include a year of Bible college for the single purpose of seeking God’s will.

7. Finally, consider using the questionnaire below as a tool to help them understand their own heart—I give this questionnaire to our seniors and ask them to think it through before we meet. I also ask them to be honest. I promise not to lecture them, but rather to just talk it through. In my experience, most of them are honest and appreciate the talk. These questions build upon each other and lay a foundation for much conversation that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. It has the effect of tenderly and compassionately opening up what could be a difficult discussion. I hope you will find it helpful.

Senior Questionnaire

1. What are the most important truths God has taught you during your senior year thus far?  (continue answer on back if needed)

2.  On a scale of 1 to 10—1 being the worst and 10 being the best—how would you rate your…

Personal relationship with the Lord

Willingness to trust God’s plans over your own

Closeness to your parents

3.  As you prepare to graduate, what is your biggest fear?

4.  As you prepare to graduate, what do you anticipate will be your greatest struggle?

5.  What are your plans for after graduation?

6.  How sure are you that these are God’s plans for you (1-10)?

7.  How much time each week would you guesstimate you’ve prayed about these plans?

8.  What is your most important prayer request?

If you have question on how this appointment or questionnaire is conducted, feel free to add a comment and we can discuss it here. Also feel free to post any additional thoughts that might help us all prepare our graduates to stay faithful to the Lord. The Lord knows, I’m certainly not the expert—but am always looking for good tips and ideas to serve students more effectively!

Thanks for reading!