Preparing Seniors for Faith After High School

This Sticky Faith Story is from Leontina Liebe, a volunteer leader at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, WA, part of our 2013 Sticky Faith Cohort.

After our daughter moved away to attend college, we realized that we had not prepared her very well for the reality of what she might encounter. My husband and I had been open with our children and had shared what we experienced in our college years. Yet even as a high school guidance and college counselor, I was surprised at how much I underestimated the influence and exposure college students face. As a result, I began praying and talking with our leadership. Last year we launched our first five-week series for seniors called "The Senior Summit." 

We sent invitations to each of our ten seniors and kicked off the event with a celebratory dinner in my home. After that, each of the next five Sundays we met for two hours over lunch. We utilized the Sticky Faith Teen Curriculum designed for juniors and seniors, and added some other topics and experiences:

  • We invited a current college junior from our church to come back and share her own challenges, joys, and what wished she had known before going away.
  • We had students write letters to themselves and to their parents (both of which we’ll mail this fall) about who they hope to become as they live out their faith in college.
  • We held a parent meeting to discuss the changes that lie ahead, changes in relationship, communication, being intentional, and practical planning. Parents also wrote letters to their kids that we will mail this fall.

This parent meeting was outstanding. Talk about emotional! Prior to the parent meeting, we asked the seniors to think about things they wanted us to tell or ask their parents. Oh golly, we got A LOT of feedback:

  • Don't call/text me daily.
  • Don't pressure me to take the classes you want me to take; let me explore.
  • Don't ask me about every detail of college life.
  • Everything really will be okay if I get a "B” or a “C."
  • Please don't make me feel guilty for having a little fun.

The parents sat there and took it all in. That's when we told parents:

  • Be intentional this summer. Teach your child about budgeting, how to do laundry, what to do when they get ill, creating personal boundaries, etc.
  • Hold some family meetings and set a communication schedule for college (what day or how often to call/text) that both you and your teenager feel good about.
  • Come to some agreement on academic and behavioral expectations, and then be compassionate and remember to offer grace and restoration when your child fails.
  • Trust your child to God.

My volunteer partners and I loved this whole experience, and the youth raved about it to their parents and to us. We recently completed a "tune up" and we’re already pre-planning next year's Senior Summit!

How are you planning to prepare this year’s seniors for life and faith after high school?