In the youth ministry rhythm of things, graduation leads into summer, which leads right back into the school year. With this rhythm it is easy to miss (especially for the church body) that there are some who are no longer among us. I’m not referring to those who don’t come to church anymore.
All too often, college students sneak back to school, disappearing from the church community largely unnoticed. A few years ago, we as a church decided that we would not let our college students disappear.
In mid-July we began inquiring with our recent graduates and returning college students what their last Sunday would be before they depart for school. It is usually the recent graduates who depart earliest. With college students there is usually a steady stream beginning the second Sunday of August through Labor Day weekend, followed by a smaller group whose schools are on the quarter system towards the end of September.
On the Sunday before they depart for college, we take a moment to ask the departing students to stand towards the end of our service. We remind our congregation who these students are and where they are heading. Finally, one of our elders offers a sending prayer for these students as they depart for college the following week.
The other thing that we have been reminded of is that some of our college students are still here, enrolled in either a local university or junior college. As a part of our sending prayers, we ask the students who will still be here to stand up on a Sunday in mid-September as a simple reminder to our church community of those who will remain an active part of our congregation throughout the school year.
For us, this has been an important step in communicating to our college students that they matter and are known, because our church community won’t let them disappear.