Hang on to your Seniors
It’s March, and my seniors are already checking out. We’ve all heard the typical excuses, “I’m too busy. I have too much homework. I have to fill out scholarship forms. I’m working to save money for college.” But checked-out seniors can make for hurting youth ministries. Perhaps, like me, you’ve struggled to find ways to keep connected to your seniors while also keeping them connected to the youth group as a whole. Last year our youth group saw five senior girls stop attending youth group at the beginning of second semester, and it challenged us to identify why they were leaving and what might help us hang on to them.
Seniors are busy. Go to where they are.
Many seniors drop out of youth group simply because they are busy with other activities. It’s their last season in a particular sport, or the pressure of last minute scholarship applications overwhelms them. My seniors are far busier than I was at that age. They are involved in what feels like one hundred activities, which only adds to the challenge of balancing and prioritizing. To keep our seniors connected, we need to go to them. We need to make space in our schedule to attend their sporting events, concerts, and plays. To hang on to them, we need to go to where they are.
“To hang on to our seniors we ensured that youth group had something for them, and our seniors remained engaged and grew more connected to one another.”
Seniors can feel like there’s nothing for them. Talk about what interests them.
When our senior girls dropped out last year, we discovered that they needed time to talk about what was most relevant to them. We started meeting on Sunday afternoons at a coffee shop to talk about college and callings using the book Moving On. It worked really well! The girls had a place to be vulnerable with other seniors, and they were able to discuss the fear of leaving the familiar and the anticipation of the starting a new adventure ahead. To hang on to our seniors we ensured that youth group had something for them, and our seniors remained engaged and grew more connected to one another.
Seniors can’t always see beyond themselves. Challenge them to care for others.
Meeting offsite was helpful, but we quickly discovered that it wasn’t a lone solution. While our senior girls remained engaged with and connected to one another, their investment in the youth group began to wane. This year we decided to challenge our students to look beyond themselves, and we brainstormed ways to help them reach back in and care for the needs of our underclassmen. We want to see our seniors plan and lead a special end-of-year event, specifically geared toward our younger students, and we’re also considering pairing each of our seniors with a younger mentee for the purpose of spending time with them during youth group and praying for them. Seniors who recognize their influence are more likely to stick around.
Don’t let your seniors’ excuses discourage you. Reach out to them in the midst of their busyness. Find ways to talk about what is most relevant to them, and challenge them to invest in younger students in the youth group. The more tightly you hang on, the more committed they will be.
About the Author
Cheryl Franklin Baertschi
Cheryl and her husband live in Carmel, Indiana and have raised 4 boys. After their youngest left the nest 6 years ago, she decided to fill the quiet house with high school and college age girls that she could encourage, mentor and disciple. She continues to learn daily from them.