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FIRST-PERSON: Graduation — and then what?

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Over the next few weeks, thousands of young people will begin their lives as adults. They will walk across a stage and receive a high school diploma. Few passages in life hold more significance.

For 18 years most of them have been under the watchful eye of their parents. Now, within months, they will set their sails for independence, ready or not.

While a young person is not necessarily more mature one second after the commencement exercises, our culture says this individual is now prepared to launch into adulthood.

We have spent many years teaching and instilling in our young people the most important lessons of life. As Christian parents, we seek to give them a strong foundation in the church, and we try to latch them to the Word of God. Tragically, a large number of them will leave next fall for the military or university and never return to the church. The statistics are staggering. It seems that while we have built the foundation, we have not provided a bridge for them to walk across.

Our youth have been nurtured in the church. They have been a part of a high-octane youth ministry. Peer pressure from fellow Christians in the group and the accountability within the group have provided help to keep them on track. Parental guidance, example and encouragement to be involved in the church are the strong glue that keeps them in the church.

When they leave home, all the accountability is gone. They find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They know what is right but are bombarded with the strong pull of newfound freedom. Their peers not only don’t attend church but see church as a hindrance to their fun. So, slowly but surely, many of our young people walk away.

What can we do? First, I think it is important that our churches provide a bridge for our young people to walk upon as they enter adulthood with the understanding that freedom comes with it. Youth ministries must take advantage of the senior year to prepare our youth for the transition to a new phase of life. We must provide a dynamic ministry for young adults in our churches that will continue the group experiences of their youth. This age group wants to be together. We can’t just place them in an adult department and expect them to stay.

Second, we as parents and church leaders should seek to transition them into a church in their college town. Take a few Sundays between now and the start of school and visit some churches in the town where they will attend college. Seek information about the churches and ask other students where they attend. And when they go to school, contact the pastor or college minister in the church you choose and ask him to make contact with your young person.

Third, get in touch with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry on their campus. These campus ministries are alive and dynamic. Get information about activities, especially “welcome week” opportunities, designed so your young person can connect. When you move them into the dorm, take time to find the BCM on campus and visit.

I challenge you to be proactive this summer in transitioning your child — young adult — into the next step of their Christian journey. They truly are the future of the church!
Anthony Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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  • Anthony Jordan