Today's guest blogger is Matt Laidlaw, 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. Read Part 1 of this post here.
At Mars Hill we believe that 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. This is why our community has created a “Post-High School Ministry” as an extension of our High School Ministry. We’re seeking to help our graduates walk across the bridge from adolescence to adulthood and from a high school youth group to adult ministry opportunities in healthy ways by pursuing the following objectives in our High School + Post-High School Ministry:
Objective #1: High School graduates will experience a significant relational connection to the Mars Hill community that transcends High School Ministry Programming.
Objective #2: High School graduates will experience a growing spirituality that transcends High School Ministry Programming.
These objectives have led to multiple small but significant shifts in how Anthem functions as a ministry. We’re doing everything we can to equip our volunteers to be volunteer pastors in the lives of our students. We want them to understand that a relationship with a high school student isn’t a programmatic commitment but is a sacred bond that students need present in their lives beyond high school graduation. The Sticky Faith research has helped us to realize that if adult relationships with adolescents end when high school ministry programming ends, than we shouldn’t be surprised if adolescent faith ends when high school ministry programming ends. We spend a significant amount of time and energy pastoring, training, and equipping our volunteer pastors to be more than just a volunteer, leader, or sponsor in the lives of our students.
We’re also doing everything we can to equip students to take ownership of their faith and spirituality while they’re in high school. We will always provide age-appropriate and relevant content and opportunities for our students, but we will never gamble the future for the sake of the present. We’re living in the tension between message and method, and between program and practices, keeping in mind that at some point soon students won’t be attending our programs and will need to know how to practice their faith on their own. The Sticky Faith research has helped us to realize that what we would consider some of our “best” teachings won’t stick beyond the end of the week let alone after graduation. However, providing space for students to practice following Jesus in tangible ways that encourage personal ownership and self-authorship will more likely encourage a faith that sticks both now and in the future.
As High School Pastors we have to trust that there are meaningful and safe opportunities for our students to experience and explore their faith at whatever church or with whatever organization they might participate in on the other side of adolescence or graduation. But we must also embrace our communal responsibility to walk with our students before and after high school graduation in a way that takes their future seriously and reminds them that they’re not walking through this transition alone.