Today's guest blogger is Matt Laidlaw. As you'll see below, he is now the High School and Post-High School Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids. Matt and the Mars Hill team were part of our 2010 Sticky Faith Cohort.
Exposure to the Sticky Faith research immediately reframed our understanding of high school and college students and how our community can best serve them. We realized that if our community genuinely desired to serve and be an advocate for college age students, we had to recognize two significant and distinct tribes of people that we had mistakenly labeled as one:
Tribe #1: College age students from the Mars Hill community who were a part of our high school ministry and graduated from high school in West Michigan.
Tribe #2: College age students who moved to West Michigan (to work or attend college) and have joined the Mars Hill community.
It became clear to us that responsibility for caring for and serving Tribe #1 didn’t lie with a College Pastor developing relevant college age ministry programming (he or she can focus on Tribe #2), but with our High School Pastors and volunteers building a sense of fidelity with this tribe that can continue beyond high school. The greatest need students in Tribe #1 have isn’t a new pastor and a new ministry to join, but a continued relationship with a community that has already journeyed with them during their high school years.
At Mars Hill we extended our high school ministry beyond graduation and created a “Post-High School Ministry”. My job title changed from “High School Pastor” to “High School and Post-High School Pastor” and our team began the difficult work of making small but meaningful adjustments to our high school ministry programming. Our hope is that high school graduation no longer marks the end of a communal and formational journey for our students, but is just one milestone on a path that our community will continue to walk with them on regardless of where, when, and if they attend college.
Encouraging Sticky Faith in the lives of our students can happen when we realize that ministry to college students isn’t just for College Pastors.