Finishing Strong with Senior Students
My senior girls are graduating, but they aren’t the only ones who have gotten an education this year. Walking them through their last semesters of high school has taught me a thing or two about how to effectively finish strong with senior students.
First semester was a whirlwind! We kicked off youth group, and I had a steady schedule of meetings with each of my girls. Then second semester hit, and it seemed like everything changed. Sports seasons started. College applications were due, and even my most devoted students started to disengage.
“Just because they appear to be ‘done’ doesn’t mean we have to be.”
It made me ask the question, “How do you minister to senior students?” And here’s what I’ve discovered: Just because they appear to be “done” doesn’t mean we have to be.
These four principles have helped me navigate this year of ministry to my senior girls, and my hope is that they are helpful to you in your ministry as you finish out the summer and take on a new group of seniors in the coming ministry year.
Persistence has to be part of our motto if we’re to effectively minister to seniors. Like many of our students, seniors are busy. There are so many demands placed on their schedules academically, athletically, and socially, and if our approach lacks persistence, we’re not likely to make any headway. Persistence looks like sending regular text messages and consistently planning meetings and activities. It looks like giving students second chances and never taking “I can’t make it” or “I’m busy” as final answers. But mostly, it looks like believing that God is still working, that your job is still important, and that you still have influence in the lives of your students.
If and when our seniors stop coming to us, our first instinct must also be to go to them. This last semester reminded me that there is great power in “showing up.” When you go to a softball game, a debate, a speech tournament, or even graduation parties, it’s as if you’re shouting, “I’m here for you. And I care about what’s important to you.” Go to enough events, and students get the message. It takes time, but showing up is one of our greatest tools to build and maintain trust with our seniors.
Time that we do have with our seniors is a rare and precious commodity, and it’s important that we not waste it. But making the most of our time will require us to come in with a clear purpose or intention every time we meet with our students. Now I approach each of my meetings with my girls with a unique question or a specific topic in mind. For example, last week I walked into coffee with one of my girls knowing that I wanted to dive into the question, “ What are you most nervous about for college?” With another one of my girls, I started the process of Life Mapping, using LeaderTreks Life Map Mentoring Tool, which has led to a series of focused conversations about her struggles, her goals, and what brings her life and joy. I’m not saying to plan out every question or carefully plot every conversation, but I am saying to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and be intentional with the time you spend talking with and teaching your seniors.
It may be because I’m a girl or because most of my ministry is to teenage girls, but I’m a big believer in gift giving. In my experience, good gifts catch students off guard and have a way of getting them to think. Say you give a student a gift card to their favorite after school hangout spot; your student will quickly think, “Wow! They really listen to me.” Or say you send a care package during what you know is a really stressful time for your student; your student will likely think, “Wow! They really know what’s going on in my life.” A good gift is meaningful, personal, and well-timed, and it will clearly demonstrate your heart for a particular student. (And if you need a suggestion, I very much recommend Moving On. It’s a gift that will help your students discover their personal and unique God-given mission.)
Our senior students are counting on us to help them walk in the way of truth and equip them to follow Jesus in the months and years ahead. So as you gear up to finish strong with your current group of seniors or as you plan for your incoming senior class, remember to be persistent in your attempts to connect, be present for what is important to them, be purposeful during your meeting times, and give presents that show your heart. Like I said before, just because they appear to be “done” doesn’t mean we have to be.
additional resources for seniors
Help students discover their God-given mission.
Two great grad gifts! Moving On and a Discipleship Journal.
Send them off with the tools to keep growing in faith.
About the Author
Taryn Phiri grew up in various states across the East Coast and the Midwest, but now she and her husband, Jerry, are happy to call Glendale Heights, IL their home. After studying International Development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, Taryn served at LeaderTreks for many years as a trip leader and training coordinator…. Read More