So post Labor Day, back to school time has arrived for everyone in the country. A common question many youth workers face? No, not whether if its OK to sneak in a few more wearings of your white shorts. We’re youth workers! A) We don’t care about what to wear when and B) Its never smart for a youth worker to wear anything all-white.
I was thinking more along the lines of what to do with our “post high school” hanger-ons, those graduates who were not part of the mass exodus off to college. You know the type I mean. Its the former student who still keeps showing up…and I’m here to tell you: more often than not? Their presence presents a problem.
What to do? On one hand, its not their fault your church doesn’t have a great college/young adult ministry. I mean, maybe the “hanger-on” will suddenly grow up and be an awesome volunteer with the blink of a magical eye or the turn of a calendar page. One day a student; the next an adult volunteer.
Here’s my take: I learned the HARD way from two guys named Scott and Craig. (Circa 1990: “Youth group just did not meet my needs tonight.” “Well, you’re 19 years old. Its not supposed to.”)
Post grads need to take a year break from your student ministry, whether they’re off to school or stay-at-home members of your church. Otherwise, its too hard for them to make the distinction between what used to be geared towards their needs and what is now not age-appropriate educationally. Its also hard for the still-in-the-group youth to see these “one year off” people as a person in leadership or authority. The 18/19-year old almost always creates more negative dynamics than its worth.
Here’s what I do: I ask them to step away for a year. In advance, I’ve found a few other options for places they can serve in the church. Usually I ask them if they’d like to serve in the children’s area as a step towards their readiness for being on my youth team. I share that when the year is up and they do come back to serve on the youth team, it will be with all the joys and expectations of being an adult.
Its not always an easy conversation, but one that has to happen. At least that’s my two cents worth.