By Josh Hussung
In a previous post, I encouraged churches to adopt an emphasis on students during their senior year. During that year, churches have a unique opportunity to help minister to students both in guidance, celebration, and in launching them into the next phase of life.
I also alluded to a series of discussions that would helpful to have with seniors over the course of that year. In this post, I’d like to focus on what I would consider to be some of the most helpful topics to cover in that time.
1. Identity in Christ
Senior year is a stressful year. The most commonly asked questions for a senior in high school is, “Where are you going to college?” and “What’s going to be your major?”
Many students don’t know the answer to these questions. This messaging sends a signal to students that their identity is somehow bound up in the answer to those two questions. Ultimately, students need to understand their identity is found—first and foremost—in their relationship with God in Christ.
Now, to be clear, any gospel-proclaiming church should’ve been teaching this from the beginning, but senior year provides a unique opportunity to press that truth into a particular (and nerve-racking) context.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but college is expensive. Students are faced with a financial decision that can potentially leave them with debt for years.
Developing the idea of our life and finances as something given to us by God to steward can help students think more clearly about the decision.
Is going into years of debt going to help or hinder their ability to serve the kingdom of God? Students wishing to go on the mission field will not be able to serve there until most or all of that debt is paid off.
If we view our money as just ours to do with what we please, that will affect the way we make financial decisions. We need to help seniors see their lives and finances as something entrusted to them by God for a purpose. If they think this way, they’ll make wiser choices.
Do our seniors understand what the Church is? Do they understand the Church to be God’s plan for the world—God’s way for the world to hear the good news about Jesus?
Do they understand the Church to be a body they’re a part of, and that if they don’t regularly gather with other believers, they’ll miss out on an important element of their own growth in Christ?
Do they understand if they don’t participate and serve in the local church—wherever they land—the body misses out on an important part of its ability to function?
And then, if they have a vision of their need to be involved, what kind of church should they find?
We need to help students see what makes a church healthy and biblical.
If they haven’t already, students will be confronted with competing worldviews in their new context, both from peers and authority figures. We want students to have a good grasp of the basic arguments that show Christianity is, in fact, a rational worldview.
Do students really understand that science and Christianity are not incompatible (though some interpretations of scientific data certainly are)?
Do they understand how the Bible was transmitted from the original writings to what we have today, and that we can be confident we know what the original text said? Do they understand the basic arguments for the existence of God?
We should be exposing them to these ideas before senior year, but revisiting them can be very helpful to students preparing to go out into the world.
I had originally intended this topic to be about sexuality. However, the issue is deeper than that. There is a cultural belief that says all human desire is inherently good. This is a thoroughly un-Christian notion.
The Bible makes the fallenness of humanity very clear, and this should cause Christians to be, at the most basic level, suspicious of our own desires. We need to help seniors understand that our desires are to be denied when those desires are contrary to what God has commanded in His Word.
That is the heart of what it means to “take up your cross” and follow Jesus. Helping students to see this will serve them, not only when it comes to sexual issues, but in every aspect of their life.
There are of course many other topics that would be helpful to discuss with seniors before they go into a new phase of life, but my hope is that by discussing these, we’ll serve them well.
Josh is the Pastor of Youth and Families at Grace Community Church in Nashville. He has also written for Rooted Ministry and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.