4 Ways to Disciple Teenagers Through Senior Youth Group Transition

A teenager’s transition out of youth ministry and into “real life” is difficult. Youth ministry often becomes a safe space and a part of their identity, so moving on can be a loss. How can a youth ministry disciple teenagers through this season of massive change and transition? Here are four ideas:

1. Find ways for your teenagers to serve in the church before the transition.

Friendships and connections are important reasons why teenagers plug into church. Relationships with adults in the church are equally important for long-term faith development and commitment. Teens with genuine relationships with a different generation in the congregation are more likely to stay in church. Serving outside of the youth ministry also allows teens to be a part of God’s movement that is bigger than themselves and the youth ministry. Find ways for your teens to serve in the church now. Opportunities might include worship ministry, tech team, children’s ministry, greeter team, small group leader, or parking lot attendant. No service opportunity is too small! Ministry alongside adults in the church is a great way teenagers “catch” what becoming a disciple of Jesus is all about.

Teens with genuine relationships with a different generation in the congregation are more likely to stay in church.

2. Equip families to teach teenagers their new responsibilities.

You can help families prepare their teenager for the transition. The more prepared a teen feels, the more confidently he/she can move into the next phase of life. Consider providing parents and guardians with a list of life skills to teach teens during their last year in the youth ministry. The suggestions will also help parents feel as if they are doing all they can to help prepare their teen. The list might include how to create a budget, pay bills, change a tire, do your laundry, and have a Bible reading and prayer time. The best thing a youth ministry can do is help parents and teens connect and grow together during this time of transition. Parents have the most influence over a teenager. Equipping them is the best way to help families disciple their children.

3. Connect teenagers to a church.

Talk to the teenager about his/her plans to continue being involved in church. If they don’t plan to succeed, they are planning to fail! Explain the next steps of discipleship and ministry in your church for the teen if he/she is staying local after high school. Connect them with their next small group leader or Sunday School teacher. Host a gathering before graduation to facilitate the next step.

If the teenager is leaving, ask them where they plan to attend church. Your questions about church set the expectation. Provide the family and teen with a list of suggestions of churches they should check out in the area. Teenagers have to continue to be a part of the church for their faith to continue to grow.

4. Connect with graduates within the first week of leaving the youth ministry.

Send something in the mail to the teenager, whether they are local or away. Everyone likes getting an unexpected gift! The gift reminds the teen that they are not forgotten. He/she is missed. Life after youth group can be lonely because many of the teen’s friendships are left behind. The first week can also present a lot of temptation for those on college campuses for the first time. A gift in the mail serves as a reminder of their faith identity and that they have a supportive home base in the church. Youth ministries can bridge the gap until new relationships are made and a church home is found.

Youth ministries can bridge the gap until new relationships are made and a church home is found.

The goal of youth ministry is to create lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ. Teenagers will not continue to grow and walk with Jesus if they are do not feel as if they have a place in the church. We can help by placing our graduates in service opportunities now, equipping families, helping teens connect to a church, and staying in contact with them after youth ministry.

Nathan Barefield
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