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Senior Year

The Senior Year Transition

The transition from high school senior to graduate began in August (or maybe even before) - applying to colleges, choosing roommates, and deciding next steps. Seniors prepared academically for this transition, but what about spiritually? As church leaders, how can we transition seniors well so that when they graduate from high school, they don’t also graduate from church?

It starts with theology.

While seniors will soon leave behind their student ministry days, it’s vital they don’t leave their church days behind. Students desperately need a sound theology of the local church. Ideally, this foundation is laid all throughout student ministry, but it’s never too late to begin. Help seniors see the importance of the local church for all of life, not just during student ministry. Exhort them with Hebrews 10:25, and that this command to not neglect gathering with believers doesn’t have a season of life attached to it.

They need a whole-church connection.

Student ministries function best when they operate as a part of the body, not an entirely separate body. When seniors already have relationships and engagement with the church as a whole, they won’t feel like they’re stepping into an entirely different body of believers upon graduation. This will look different depending on each local church context. Adults may “sponsor” a student, intentionally praying for and caring for that them. Multigenerational small groups and/or times of fellowship can provide opportunities for connections.

Serving + spiritual gifts.

One key way seniors (and all students) can connect to the church as a whole is through serving. Students aren’t the church of the future; they’re the church of today. Help seniors identify their spiritual gifts, and then help them plug into the church to use those gifts. In doing this, they’ll connect with other church members and also understand they’re a necessary part of the body.

The church search.

For seniors moving away to college, challenge them to find a local church body in which they can engage. Through many years of student ministry, I’ve seen that the students who make the local church a priority grow the most in their walks with Christ during their college years and beyond. If possible, provide students a list of solid local churches near their campus. If you don’t know of any, reach out to that college’s BCM director. They’re a great resource which can provide information about both on-campus ministries and local churches. Encourage parents to make visiting a church a part of college tours. Besides the list itself, talk with students about the “how-to” of finding a local church. Equip them with priorities to seek versus preferences to hope for, and the ability to discern when reading another church’s statement of faith.

Spiritual disciplines.

No matter the specifics of a senior's post-graduation plan, their lives will look different. With each new season, they’ll need to evaluate how it looks to practice spiritual disciplines such as Bible study and prayer. Encourage them with the importance of this, but also equip them by giving practical examples of not only how to do these things, but ways to implement these disciplines in their new season.

Build and keep relationships.

Relationships are one of my favorite parts of ministry. Just because a student graduates from student ministry doesn’t mean the relationship ends. Follow up with them about their church life, how you can pray for them, and simply, how life is going. Often, college is when students are exposed to different beliefs and worldviews. Leave the door of communication open so that students have a safe place to come to with their questions. Use summers and other breaks as intentional times of connection. As they become college students faithfully following Jesus, allow them to pour back into the student ministry. If applicable, find ways to transition them from your care and leadership to that of your church’s college/young adult ministry.


As a ministry leader, you have the special privilege of knowing these students. You know their struggles and potential pitfalls they’ll face in their next season. Because of that, you have the opportunity to pray for them in very specific ways. Don’t neglect such a blessing and powerful tool!

Senior year is important, but remind students that it doesn’t define them. Their identity is in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14), and their ultimate purpose is to love God and love people (Matt. 22:36-40). Encourage students that true success is trusting God with the next step and being faithful in the next thing. May student ministry years be a launching pad for students to continue to be faithful church members, students of God’s Word, and ministers of the Gospel in their college years and beyond.