A few Sundays ago, St. Luke’s confirmed 70 students. It has been amazing to journey with these young people and their families over the past three years. But what is next for them? In four short years these students will graduate and likely leave St. Luke’s. The question for us is “what will they take with them?” Our hope is for them to leave with a rich love for Christ and an eagerness to serve. Wherever they live in five years, we want them to be prepared to plug into a new community of faith. So how do we as a church help to keep students engaged and growing in their faith through their high school years and beyond? Here are a few of our keys:
My youth ministry mentor Mark Devries once said of High School students, “If they aren’t leading they are leaving.” This is why I am so excited about our Servant Leadership Team. The Servant Leadership Academy (SLA) is a process of deeper discipleship and intentional training. This group gives leadership opportunities to high school students eager to put their faith into practice. SLA students lead teams of volunteers on Sunday mornings, plan our Middle School fall retreat, lead a weekly youth worship band and serve in various areas around the church. They also learn how they can use their gifts outside the church. The Servant Leadership Team is a phenomenal way for young people to go deeper with their faith journeys. We have seen amazing fruit come from this program.
Today’s young people often have hundreds and hundreds of “friends” on social media. However, deep community among people they can trust and depend upon is priceless. At the end of the day, youth ministry is about relationships. Our small group ministry is a huge focus. We have over a hundred High School students that participate regularly in one of our 12 different High School small group Bible studies. Each group contains eight or so students with two leaders. They provide an amazing environment for students to be themselves while they grow deeper in their faith. I talk with families who say that their student would “move heaven and earth” to make sure they make it to their weekly small group.
Over the past 20 years that I have been involved in youth ministry, I have worked with thousands of young people and their families. I have seen a clear connection between parent involvement and student involvement. Ultimately, faith is caught as much as it is taught. Parents that are plugged into a small group, parents that have a serving role within the church, parents that have a relationship with the volunteers and staff among a youth ministry are much more likely to see their young people continue to grow in their faith.
Students are busy and they lead fast-pace lives. This makes taking time away for their faith journey even more important. Our High School CIY trip is often cited as a transformational moment for students. As students go on week long trips they get a chance to disconnect from the day to day and connect deeper to their own souls. They also develop life-long bonds with their friends. We are excited to see what God is going to do this summer as students travel to Michigan and Kentucky for our High School camp and service project. These are not just youth “trips,” but they are experiences where students encounter God in a whole new way. Their lives in Houston are forever impacted by these journeys away.