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TRANSITIONS How to Successfully Transition Your Students from High School to College

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Scooter Kellum

Well, let’s go ahead and get started. My name is Scooter Kellum and I’m with the Alabama State Board of Missions. I’m the youth ministry strategist. And we’re glad, this morning we’re gonna be talking about transitions. Transition from high school graduation to college and how we can do that more effectively. How we can just resource youth pastors that might be on here or seeing this as this is being recorded, or college ministry. We’ve brought in Cleve Mallory from Eastmont Baptist Church and team leader of our Transitions team with YM Link. And so we’re glad that he’s here to join and present from his team and things like that. And he’s gonna tell you a little bit more about that today. But then, before we get launched into Cleve’s presentation and kind of resourcing and talking in this webinar, I wanna turn it over to Chris so he can talk a little bit about what he does. And it just talks about college ministry. So Chris.

Chris Mills

Yeah, so I’m Chris Mills. In signing up for this, you may have seen Scooter’s name Cleve’s name and Mike Ness’ name. Mike’s mother in law passed away yesterday afternoon. So I’m jumping in for him. I know that he and Judy would appreciate your prayers during this season for them.

And my role here in the collegian student ministries, Office of the State Board of Missions, is primarily collegiate student mobilization. And so as we talk about mobilizing college students, we’re talking about mobilizing them to the nation’s to ministries here in Alabama and all across the globe. But their primary ministry focus would be their campus.

And so as we think about that, I wanna share with you a couple of statistics that you’ve heard a million times. But you know that between 70 to 80% of incoming freshmen, incoming college students, move away from their faith in college. And that’s a variety of reasons but one of the things we can, we certainly know is that the first three weeks of college are of extreme importance. They’re of extreme importance and they kind of determine a lot of the patterns that students begin to take and connections they make. And so today, we want to talk about some ways to connect and engage with those students. And keep them connected to the local BCM, to the local church while in college.

We recently, well, I guess it’s been almost two years now, have begun an emphasis focused on reaching every student. That here in the state of Alabama, there are over 300,000 college students. And as many as 200,000 of them do not have a relationship with Jesus they’re not engaged in church they’re not engaged in living out their faith. And so If we want to see every student reached with the gospel, then those students that are already reached, those students connected to your youth ministries now that are going into college, we’ve got to do all we can to keep them engaged and connected.

And so that’s gonna happen through the local church, for sure that’s gonna happen through BCM, that’s gonna happen through campus ministry. And it’s gonna happen all for the kingdom. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today, is how can we do that? Before I turn it over to Cleve, I want to If you’re taking notes, and I’ll put this link in chat, but there’s a brand new page we just launched today on the BCM link website, bcmlink.org/connect. And there’s a video there that we’re gonna be sending out to you. But also along with that, there’s a form to complete to connect your students with campus ministries all across the state of Alabama.

And so I’d encourage you to take some time, those graduating seniors that are part of your ministry, wherever they’re going here in Alabama and even beyond, to fill that form out and let us connect them with BCM, somewhere, on whatever campus God has called them to. I hope that today is a day of encouragement, a day of challenge for you as we are all in this together, our heart. And the common bond that we have, of course is Christ and the hope we have in Him but also a passion, desire to reach every student. And so I pray that today is the day where we would be better equipped and challenged to do that. So, Cleve, I’ll turn it over to you and you can share with us.

Cleve Mallory

Awesome, man, I appreciate it. Just to kind of brief who I am, my name is Cleve Mallory. I’m the student pastor at Eastmont Baptist Church, here in Montgomery, Alabama. I’ve been here for about three and a half years, closer, I guess now to four. And I’ve been in student ministry for over 15 years. I spent nine years previously in a rural area, in Billingsley, Alabama, kind of in the Chilton County area as well. So I’ve kind of been in a city context and in a rural context. But one thing that I’ve noticed, is the need for this type of ministry, for us being intentional with the concept of transitions in the student ministry.

But Scooter asked me to be on this team. Scooter asked me to serve on this Transitions team. And I want to give a shout out to the names of the individuals who are serving on this with me, Jon LaMarque, Emily Hamilton, Denis Tanner, Bill Morrison, who is actually a BCM Pastor at UAB. And then also Abby Johnson, as well, who’s not gonna be able to be with us today. But ranging all throughout the state, are these individuals. And they’ve been super helpful with us as we’ve really just tried to wrap our minds around how to approach this such a broad topic. And so what I wanna do with you right now, is just kind of define some of the characteristics of what we’re trying to do. The what, the who, the why and then the when. And I’ll make that make sense in a second.

But when we speak about transitions, we need to understand what we’re referring to, is that in student ministry, our entire ministry is built around the concept of transitions. If you’re involved in student ministry in any way, whether you’re a student pastor or whether you’re a volunteer just serving in some capacity or a live group or a Sunday school leader in your church. Your job is to transition students from one age Grange, one group to the next. The whole reason that we exist is because, the church, at some point in church history, there was the vision, there was the need to specifically invest in teenagers who are ultimately transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

And so we see that need. And we can see in Scripture there’s a couple of passages that in Old Testament that jump out. Proverbs 22:6 is one that we go to really easily, train up a child and the way they should go, alright? and when they’re old, they won’t depart from it. So there’s this idea that it is the role of the parent specifically in this, but we can kind of interject some of our, what we’re trying to do there in training up children as they progress, as they mature physically. And then also there’s Psalm 127:4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. And so this idea is as well as we’re preparing them as they transition to be launched out to be And I guess, in essence, weapons for the kingdom of God, for the advancement of the kingdom of God. And so we see the need of that. That’s the what.

The Why is because, Chris has already touched on that. And you guys have heard the statistics, I’m sure. And that’s probably why you clicked to join this webinar. But we’re somewhere now, in the range of 60 to 70% of church to students who are falling away once they depart from their immediate church context and the home churches in which they’ve been raised. And I remember when I used to see those statistics I used to think, well, you know, 80%, but not all of them are church. But the idea is that we’re talking about church students, we’re not even talking about the lost world. We’re not talking about those who have not been influenced with the gospel in some way. We’re talking about students who were raised in a church context, who were actively involved in some capacity with their student ministries, if they had some or just with their church ministries.

And when they were given the option opportunity for freedom of choice, I guess at age 18 or beyond, they are spending time departing the church, spending time out of church. And the longer that that ensues, we’re realizing that what we’re doing, is we are creating cultures where that becomes the norm. We don’t intend to do it, it’s not intentional for certain. But we’ve got to look at the fruit of what we’re doing. So here’s kind of the why of what we’re doing. As we begin to examine the fruit of our efforts, we see that there is something that we’re not doing to connect students to the fact that as they become young adults, the needs for them to step up and serve in their church capacities or to continue to be involved in churches is at a great need.

I became painfully aware of this in my previous stint in student ministry, where I served when I departed from there and I look back on the students that I had close relationships to. And now I see that so many of them are not actively walking with the Lord. Though they may not have abandoned their faith 100%, they have drifted away from active church attendance. And they’ve certainly drifted away from serving for the kingdom and living actively for the kingdom of God. And that was never my intention. And I know that it was in my preaching, I know that my preaching covered those topics. I know that in my conversations with them, I covered those topics, but something was missing. And so what we wanna do is we wanted to try to attack that and say, what are we missing as churches in the state of Alabama at least? How can we buck the trend? And so that’s kind of the why, why we exist.

The who of transitions has been one of the most interesting, I guess, revelations to me in this process. All of our team that I mentioned earlier, their names mentioned earlier, our focus in student ministry tends to obviously be on students themselves. We spend time with students on Sundays on Wednesdays. And what we found is that, the who cannot simply involve students. And so I know some of your questions. I hope some questions questions today might revolve around this concept. But we also saw a need, we know that there is a need for us to connect with adults and with parents as well. And rather than separating that out from student ministry, we see the need that for transitions to occur well that there has to be a need for us to connect with parents. And we do realize that so many of our students in our churches now, come from broken homes, they come from areas, maybe they’re the only student that comes. Sorry, they’re the only individual in their family that comes. Some of them don’t have families that they live with, that are able to do that. And so we realize that’s a challenge in itself. But they spend so much more time with other adults than they do with you. And so we’ve got to train up adults, we’ve got to train up parents to also be investing in them. And then it comes to this so I’ve got the what, the who and the why.

And then the when. And when I say when, I’m not talking about the like when, as far as what time we do this but I’m talking about the when, as in what is our success? What is our goal in student ministry. And I think our definition of that is where we are lacking the most. Most of us in our student ministry approach to transitioning kids from high school to college, we take a I know that I used to be this way. So we take a path of what I would call procrastination. It is where we simply put off intentionally the thing that we should have been doing all along. We forget that our ultimate role in student ministry is to begin transitioning students from their childhood to their adulthood. And I do realize that many of us who would say, well, our ultimate goal should be to make disciples and you’re absolutely right. But the problem is that the call to make disciples wasn’t given to student ministries, it was given to all believers.

And so the churches goal overall should be to make disciples and I pray that every one of you who are serving in student ministry in some capacity, that you are serving in churches. And you are serving under pastors who see that need, who communicate that vision to the people. And that you are in church cultures that values the idea of being disciples that make disciples. And if not, then your work just doubled as a student pastor. Because probably that is a huge passion of yours. So yes, the church’s call is to make disciples. But within student ministry itself, we’ve got to understand that we have a secondary role in there as we’re helping to make disciples. As we’re making disciples, we need to be focusing specifically on this concept of transitioning.

So rather than procrastinating and allowing time to go by, you only get six years. Our entire student ministry existence is built around a cycle. It’s all cyclical. We get students in sixth or seventh grade, depending upon your setup at your church. And you’ve got six years essentially, to invest in that student. And the difficulty in student ministry And also some of the, it’s the challenge but also it’s the beauty when it works well, is the fact that we never get to know how successful we’ve truly been, until they’re beyond our reach in a way. Until they step away from us and very much like parenting. We know we don’t get to see true success in student ministry until they depart from us that they begin to make choices on their college campuses or in the career fields that they make. And so we see them the fruit.

So as we have seen the fruit, we’ve given the statistics, we see where the fruit is leading on the big picture. We need to heed the warnings that are there and realize we need to make some changes to the culture that we have. And rather than procrastinate and just hope it goes well, we need to intentionally plan, we need to have an orderly arrangement of parts, overall design, objectives. We need to have purpose in what we’re doing and communicate that from a young age. At six seventh eighth grade, they need to know that our plan is to transition them the whole way. We’re preparing them to be adults. And we also need to be preparing their parents to prepare them. And so there’s that, that word is used over and over again. But that’s the what, the who, the why, and then ultimately the when. How do we know we’re being successful? We know we’re being successful when we see students have, develop and demonstrate a connection and a need for a covenant people when they go to college. And our focus on this specific webinar is us preparing students for college, as they transition from high school into college.

And so we know we’ve been successful when they can clearly communicate to us, when they demonstrate, not simply by word of mouth because they’re always gonna tell their youth pastor what he wants to hear or what she wants to hear, right? But we wanna make sure that we are seeing an active dependence upon church community. That we wanna see them seeking out church community, when they begin to connect to their college campuses. Are they asking you questions about what churches are in the cities they’re going to. You as a student pastor need to be researching these cities. We know that in the state of Alabama, you have your major cities. You have Auburn, you have Tuscaloosa, not in that order, just kidding. You have Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Troy, Jacksonville, Huntsville, Mobile. You have some major cities where we have most of our larger colleges. But even in some of the smaller communities where we have colleges in West Alabama and other areas of North Alabama, we need to see where our students are going.

And we need to be connected in the local churches that share the same values that we have and who have demonstrated that they want to invest in the college students that we’re sending them. We need to stress church membership, church attendance. We also need to be connecting them to their campus pastors. And we’ll talk a little bit about that. We’ve got a few campus pastors here that have joined us today and they’ll have an opportunity to share a little bit too, depending on how our Q&A sessions go. But we need to be connecting them with individuals who can hold them accountable on campus in a biblical way, but who are also going to push them and challenge them in a biblical way to take deeper steps in their faith where they can take ownership of who they are and who Christ is wanting them to become when they have stepped away from the umbrella of mother and father in their homes.

We need to see that demonstration. And the way that we do that is not waiting until they’re 18 or 19. It is beginning earlier and trying to instill in them, hey, when you become 18, I can’t wait to see how God uses you on your college campus. Speak vision into them, use positive encouragement starting when they’re 14, 15,16. So that you’re creating a vision that they can see and that they can attain to, that when they reach that as they respect you as their student pastor, they’ll also begin to see that they wanna please you just as much as they wanna please their parents whom hopefully you have also invested in. And so there’s this common vision, common thread is you’ve spoken to the adults in their lives, if you’ve spoken to the students themselves, they’re not getting mixed signals. And they see that ultimately, the path for success for them spiritually exists when they go off to college and they connect with Bible believing individuals, when they connect with Bible believing organizations and when they connect with local churches in their area where they can continue to be sculpted by the gospel, but also invest in the communities where they’ve been planted for those four years or for those six years, who knows what kind of students you have.

So anyways, that’s kind of our thoughts around the idea of transitions. That’s why we exist. But let me turn it back over to Scooter and see what we need to do as far as Q&A goes. And so I’m gonna roll it back over to you Scooter.

Scooter Kellum

Alright. Chris, will you cover some questions about the community colleges?

Chris Mills

Yes. Denise asked about community college and BCM on community college campuses. So BCM is on every four year public school campus in the state and on many community college campuses, there is a link on bcmlink.org that says, where BCM is, across the state. Now, the Community College listing is constantly changing. The Community College BCM is funded by the local Association. And so there are many times, those campus ministers are volunteers and so that list is changing regularly. We do our best to keep it up to date. But ultimately, I can just about guarantee you that there will be some, at least one campus that’s out of date. But feel free to reach out to me if you have a question about specific campus and I’ll do my best to get you an answer to that. Or try to see who exactly could get you the answer to that, what the local DOM. What other questions do you have?

Cleve Mallory

Well, here’s some that we’ve talked about in our group sessions, this may help you. As you guys think, continue to ask some questions and we’ll try to cover some of the things that I think are common, that you’re probably That you’re probably considering right now. But one of the questions we asked was, what are some signs that we look for? And I kind of covered a little bit of this but what are some signs we look for, high school juniors or seniors, indicating a student’s preparedness for transitioning? Like how do we know which students of ours are ready to succeed? And so we can know where we need to continue investing or where we need to move and invest more on this. Because obviously your time is limited, your reach is limited. So what are the factors that we look for?

And some of those that we see across the board that were answered by our panel when we asked this question, was the idea of the ability to communicate the gospel, is huge. It amazes me how many churched individuals, adults or children, but specifically in the adult landscape of our churches, who if we just asked them outright, hey, what is the gospel? Like how can you communicate the gospel? And bullets of sweat just start beating up because in so many, we’ve not practiced that. We’ve not taken on the opportunity to go. And how can I clearly present the gospel message in a way that incorporates my testimony so you can add with that gospel and personal testimony? Are you training students to be able to do that? The ones that can tend to be the ones who are equipped to do that also on their college campuses. We know that they’re gonna be engaging with individuals in their classes and professors possibly at times, but even more so just the students that they’re gonna attach themselves to. We know that in those opening, probably two to three weeks once they hit college campuses, we know that it’s in that time that they’re gonna be making those friends and those connections that are gonna carry them the next four years.

I was involved in Greek life. And so when I was at Troy, I know that it was the opening few nights, of me being on campus that I met the guys that I spent the next four years of my life with, who greatly influenced me, some ways, positive, some ways negative. But they were the ones that were closest to my life. And so I see the need. Man, I wish somebody would have prepped me early in saying, hey, you’re going to encounter people early and you need to be prepared to share who you are and what matters to you the most before you begin to be molded in other directions. And so we look for those those abilities to communicate the gospel.

And then also the ability to simply participate in a beneficial way in small groups. What students of yours, by the time that there’s juniors and seniors, are they should showing you that they have a grasp of how to participate in discussion? When you’re discussing Bible study, when you open the floor for questions in your youth group settings, are there individuals? Are your older ones that are going to college, are they able to speak intelligently in a way that lets you know, hey, it’s clicking, they get this? And not only do they get it intellectually, they’re able to regurgitate it. They’re able to speak it back out and synthesize some of this material. Those are great ways. Emily Hamilton had that last one for sure. And it was a great opportunity there or ability to see on that, as well. That’s one of our questions, I guess that we’ve asked. I’ll try to look and see if we’ve had other ones.

Scooter Kellum

Hey, Cleve, I’d like to say, I actually got something from you that I thought was important. You talking about the relationships of someone moving into college. And one of the things that happened to me I started handing out Starbucks gift cards to my seniors so that whenever they went to college, they could have a conversation with someone on campus. Whether that’s having a gospel conversation, whether that’s finding somebody to mentor them or whatever, so that they could have someone to invest in their lives or that they were investing in someone else’s and they could buy them a cup of coffee. And I had a student who has done that. And it ended up being someone who is invested in this young man’s life and making a difference in him. The other thing that I was thinking about this morning that ties into Chris a whole lot is that, you know, it’s early on in life, if you’re involved and meet some people and get involved in college ministry. And it’s also something that we’re talking about, the opportunities for missions. If we create a heart for missions early on, then there are so many opportunities as freshmen that we hope that they learn and know about so that they can be on mission even through college. And I know that that impacted a lot of things in my life, as well as my wife’s who was on mission trips through her campus ministry.

Hey, we have another question from Matt. How can we as campus ministers best help connect with the student pastors to help them transition students to our campuses? And what do the student pastors see that we as campus ministers can do to best reach their students when the students get to campus?

Cleve Mallory

Man, to really, Matt, it probably is in the reverse? Our churches need to do a better job of connecting with you, connecting with student or campus pastors. And so we take a look, I think we need to do the better job of doing that. But some of the ways that you can do that is actively you know, being active presence in social media, on your campuses, right? On the campuses. One of the things that we’re doing when students are going into these campuses, they’re connecting on social media through Instagram, their parents especially. When I was in a fraternity at Troy, one of the things that I would do is, when I was part of recruitment of new students. And I realized that the type of guys that I wanted to invest in, that I wanted to try to bring into our organization, were the types that I probably needed their parents approval. And so rather than only reaching out to those students, I wanted to connect with their parents. Because if I could convince a mother or a father that I had their student’s best interests at heart, then they would be much more convinced to support their students choosing an organization. And the same thing I think can happen with BCM.

As you guys, as campus managers can become more prevalent on the social media aspect or Facebook, connecting with those parents. Once those children and students decide where they wanna go to school, they’re looking at you on your Facebook feeds, they’re looking on, they’re looking at the Campus, the organizations that are there and being involved in those browse sessions. And then also just reaching out. You probably can’t hit every church. A lot of your more rural churches, it’s just gonna be tough, because most of them are probably only graduating three or four students every year. And not all of them are enrolling in college campuses, the next year.

Some of them are going straight into a career. And so one way you can do it is, go for the low hanging fruit. The larger churches that you know of, that are sending students, reach out to them in a regular way. Build connections with those student pastors and student ministries. Ask them to help connect you to other local churches that you might know of. But find ways to do that, that would be great. I may turn it around and ask some of our campus pastors as well. How can we, how can youth pastors or ministry leaders, how can we better connect with you early on? I might try to reach out to Bill, if you’re able to, Doug may have to unmute his mic to do that. But Bill, can you give us just a few quick tips on how we can do a better job, connecting with campus pastors.

Bill Morrison

[Bill] I think one of the things that is helpful, is to give us access to some of your students or to your graduating seniors before the summer of their freshman year. If there’s some kind of senior event, can you bring us in to speak to a senior Sunday school class, some type of thing like that. It could be that you bring two or three of us in to just have a panel discussion. Maybe start earlier than Sunday school with a breakfast, make it kind of informal, but then have the option of extending into the Sunday school hour. And just let us get to know them so they don’t see us just as some folks that work for a big organization or an institution, but they get to know us on a personal level. I think that’d be incredibly helpful.

Chris Mills

To add to that, I would echo to what Bill is saying. And that can be done in a variety of ways. It can be done through, you know, you’re in the Birmingham area, call Bill and ask him to come for Sunday school, ask him to come for a special event you’re having. And perhaps you’re in a more rural area or it’s not gonna work for the person to physically be there. Even this kind of connection, as much as we’re tired of Zoom these days, like to put a face and make a connection, to encourage students To encourage that high school senior to think about what’s next. They’re thinking about college. And they’re hearing from Greek organizations, they’re hearing from anybody and everybody on campus. And so just for you as a student pastor who’s very influential in their life, to be that point of contact, for them to connect in, I think it’s the biggest deal, is the personal connection that exists. And what I did with Jon and Alan Tate, outside Florence in Hillboro a few years ago, was just focusing on, what are some takeaways? What are some things you can do in college? It was more informational. And what are some things that you need to be prepared for? And so I think any kind of experience like that, will be helpful for your students. And help us in connecting with them by having you be the the middleman versus just a cold call from a campus minister.

Scooter Kellum

Well, and I would say, to add on all both of what you said, youth pastors, student pastors, Matt, going back to your question for just a second, are the gatekeeper for their kids. And we are protective of our kids and who gets in front of our kids and who meets our kids and things like that. When it comes to our churches, and youth ministries. So the way that you can best help, I think, is to connect with a youth pastor. Just this past January before COVID-19 hit, Bill drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to spend a day and a half at what’s called, Youth Ministry Conclave. And throughout that time, we have many different things that are meetings and gatherings that are geared for Alabama Baptist youth pastors. Well, Bill got to basically build relationships and sit and talk to youth pastors. Well, if bill calls one of those youth pastors now and says, hey, I’d like to come and meet with your senior Sunday school class. Well, guess what? They’re gonna be more likely to say yes now, than they would have before because they’re like who is Bill? Yeah, you say you’re Bill, but I don’t know about that. But if I know Bill because I’ve had relationship, even if it’s over a weekend, it’s not that we don’t trust well or trust quickly, it’s just that we got to have some relationship. And so it doesn’t have to be Conclave. We do Super Summer Alabama, we do Speak, which is gatherings of youth pastors. We have youth pastor retreats throughout the year. And for you as campus ministers, we would love for y’all to come be a part of those. And as we do, it would be a great thing for, I think you, to build the relationships with those guys. So then you can come up there. Chris, you got to go speak for John. And you’re a great resource and I would affirm what he said. But y’all did that because you and Jon have a relationship. And therefore he invited you to come in. That is the key. Build relationships with your youth pastors, because that is, they are the gate. They are the gatekeeper for their ministers.

Cleve Mallory

I saw where Denise was asking a question about leadership. And just how it’s a difficult transition, where you have your high school leaders, who then step into, you know, they’re big fish in a small pond. And now suddenly they’re small fish in a big pond. And that’s a huge transition. And Denise, one of the ways that I think that we do that, Scooter just mentioned some of those. There are events that are built around the state, that our State Board of Missions has been great over the past three to five years, especially, of trying to envision ways. How can we reach and train leaders to be ready to step up? A lot of our BCMs are doing that as well. They’re thinking that through and they’re trying to develop ways that they can bring freshmen in and orient them to what we’re doing on campus. So that by the time, ’cause they know, you know, four years goes by quickly. So by the time they’re sophomores and juniors, they’re ready to step into leadership roles. They’re trained, they’ve already been developed.

Some of these events that I know, one is the Called Event, that we did for the first time this past year. And it was in August of last year. And it was just an opportunity for any student that wanted to around the state. It’s not something you bring your whole group to. Anybody that feels called to leadership in the church, called to ministry in some way and they’re wrestling with that. Man, they come down and they got some great training that day. So there are events to look through like that. There’s some resources too. One of the books that we use at Super Summer, that Scooter was talking about, for students who are questioning that, is this book by Jeff Iorg, “Is God Calling Me?” And there’s just great opportunity there, answering the questions every leader asks. But it’s a great way, great tools to use. But I would say look for some of those tools, Denise to help those students to see. And some of it is just, we need to make sure that we present reality to them and let them know. Like in your question, I noticed you mentioned you know, there were cliques and freshmen are insecure.

We need to prepare them that they’re going to feel that way. So that when they experience those emotions or when they experience a feeling of being shut out, that they realize, hey, it’s really nothing personal with you. This is just part of the transition process that you’re going through. And there’s an end in sight. And it’s not something that’s gonna be forever. And so as you experience it, be in the moment. One of the greatest ways that I’ve been challenged in that over the past years, is journaling. That is a skill and a habit. One of the questions that our group has asked, as we’ve discussed, are what are some of the skills that we can, or what are some of the ways that we can train individuals in order to be prepared? And that journaling, that them taking ownership of their spiritual devotional life and being able to write down their emotions, being able to write down the things that they feel the Lord doing in them, even if it’s not exactly understood, if it’s not clearly understood, they’re learning how to think through and process that. So that when they do step on a college campus and they’re overwhelmed. When they do step on a college campus and they don’t know what to do, they’re able to then, in and of themselves, they’ve developed habits that teach them how to listen for the Spirit of God, how to feel where they’re being led. And they’re not scared to take a step. We’re not asking him to go run in full force, we’re just saying, hey, take a step and see where this leads and doors opens doors close. But it prepares them for that. But yeah, leadership is hard. But I know that there are organizations on campus that they realize that too and they’re ready to invest in students to help build them into leaders.

Scooter Kellum

I see that Denis Tanner is on here. And Denis is a veteran when it comes to youth ministry and has been doing it a long time. And someone that the guys like you and I, we respect so much. And so I’m gonna ask Doug, if you will unmute Denis. And Denis, my question for you would be, so the students that you’ve seen that have graduated from your student ministry and transition to college and went out and served and live out their faith. And didn’t leave the church, they weren’t a part of the large statistic. What would you say that was different about those students? What was the connect that you saw in those students that maybe you didn’t in some of the other students that didn’t stick with it?

Denis Tanner

[Denis] I think the big thing that I’ve noticed, students who have the desire to really grow in their walk with Christ, and as Cleve said earlier about, they really understand what the importance of the local body, whether it’s being connected right away. The students who seem to transition well, they do know who they are, they know who they’re serving and they have a desire to continue. And I think it’s all about the being open to transformation. Transformation takes place when we’re spending time with the Lord and we’re open into what He wants to do. And so when I see the students, they share their testimony before they laugh, they are continuing to have a quiet time. They understand what that means, what it’s all about. But to me, the big difference is, they’ve got a mindset that when they go off. I know, like our students who go to the Auburn area, they want to do The Oaks, they want to be prepared for war. And The Oaks is that retreat where a lot of different churches come together and faith based organizations are looking at trying to help students know, all these are opportunities for you to grow. So I really think the students have a mindset of, hey, the first two weeks, that’s gonna make a difference. I share that a lot with them. That what you do in the first two weeks, you’re forming habits for the rest of the year, which will really set you on a pattern for your entire time of college life. And so not that you can’t change that if you made some unhealthy decisions, but those students seem to do pretty well.

Scooter Kellum

Okay, thank you, Denis. Just appreciate you and all the work you do. And the many lives you’ve invested in.

So are there any more questions that you might have?

Cleve Mallory

One of the things is that, and feel free if you guys have one to shoot one over? What are some of the specific examples of successful endeavors or implementations that we’ve seen occur in our churches. And some of you may have this, you can shoot that out in your text on the chats as well. And let us kind of know, what are some of the implementations that have been made in our churches? That was one of the questions that we asked our Transitions team to go through. And they’ve had several great examples and discussions of some of those things that we’ve done. One was interesting.

See, in my context, I’m used to doing, we split our guys and girls in Sunday school. And so they’ve come through depending upon the amount, is how many they can fit into a room. But we’ve mostly kept guys and girls separate. We spoke to some churches who in their senior year, they intentionally combined just seniors, but with the guys and girls for life groups. And so some of you may already do that. And some of you, the numbers and the amount of workers may necessitate. And that’s all you can do. But for those churches that may tend to split their youth for six years, that may be a great opportunity, your senior year, is to get them to develop relationships. Teach guys how to relate to the females in their group in a Biblical way so they can develop friendships there in the right way. And teach them to same thing on the backside of that for females to learn how to develop friendships with males who are modeling a Biblical lifestyle.

So that as they step into college, they know what types of guys they need to be surrounding themselves with. The same thing true with the guys, they know what type of females they can be surrounding themselves with. Some other things that we’ve done is or that we’ve seen done as well, is using that Sunday school opportunity to maybe break away from the traditional Sunday school curriculum. And bring in different curriculum that specifically prepares your seniors for college, rather than staying on. We use a lot of lightweight materials. So rather than just doing the same LifeWay material they’ve done for six years, we take specific chunks of their year. We don’t do it the entire senior year, but we take specific chunks of that senior year and we bring in some other type of curriculum that is college prep. And you can google all sorts of things. And LifeWay has stuff as well as other publishing companies as well, that are geared for that. But that’s there.

And that’s a great opportunity, because you’ve got a captive audience and they’re all in the same walk of life. And so you can begin to do that. And it kind of treats them in a different way. And it begins to separate them in a healthy way to let them know, hey, we’re doing different with you because you’re about to transition out. And rather than continuing to treat 12th graders like eighth graders, now you’re treating 12th graders like 12th graders. And you’re preparing them for what they’re doing. And they see that and they sense that. And I think that’s a great opportunity, as well, some of the implementations. But I know like Jon LaMarque has had some great ideas. I know he’s on this panel, too. John, what are some of the implementations or some of the things that you’ve seen churches do or that you’ve done just as a student pastor that are super helpful in preparing students to depart and to step out into college?

Jon LaMarque

You guys already mentioned, we got a couple of speakers who come up during the senior year for this students. We call it Senior Summit. And we get people like Chris or Alan Tate, or a guy from Montgomery, his name escapes me, that come and talk to our students and our parents. That show them how to prepare for college, the beginning of their senior and what it looks like to leave for college at the end of their senior year. So that’s really helpful.

Cleve Mallory

That’s awesome. I’d forgotten about that. Yeah, easily bringing people in and stuff like that. Scooter can you think of any other like topics that we’ve not discussed, that you and I had talked about previously?

Scooter Kellum

Well, one of the things that someone just texted me that I thought was pretty good is, what can we do? You asked a question, what can we do to help campus ministers? And one of the things that one of them just told me was, you know, for us to truly make sure that our students have true genuine conversion and not just, let’s take their salvation as a decision, one time in camp somewhere. But if we’re seeing true life transformation and true life conversion for salvation then what happens is, when there’s a life change there, then it will and we’re helping with that. Then when they get there, it would be a change. And it will be a difference in the way they walk and live their lives. So I think it’s easy for us to try and please the church, please different things about, by getting certain numbers, by baptizing certain amount of kids. But if we baptize kids and they really hadn’t had salvation in their lives then we’ve done a great injustice more than anything else. And there’s no way that they’re gonna carry out a false salvation, throughout their days in college, young adult and hopefully when they

Cleve Mallory

And you know, another great way of transitioning students, some of the implementations, I’m looking back through my notes, panel discussion. You know, I’ve Sometimes I overlook this, the importance and the effectiveness of panel discussions. And no, it doesn’t have to be professionals. That’s the great thing, is not all of your students, we’re not trying to teach students that I think there’s just I guess this mentality that the students who are really good at church things, that God is calling them to be professional Christians later, right? God’s calling them into ministry. And what we need to see is no, no, no. The standard is that we want all of God’s followers, right? We want all the followers of Jesus to be maturing in their faith. And not simply because they feel like God might be calling them to vocational ministry, but rather, we want them to see that this is the norm.

We wanna create a culture where actively pursuing our faith in college becomes the norm. And so some panel discussions may be great within your church. Who are some adults who have navigated that transition well? Who are some couples that you can bring in that met in college, that you could speak with? Or that you could have in front of your students to do that? Who are some people maybe, that have a powerful testimony in your church who have not done that transition well and they’ve had to reap some of the harvest of that as well? And have those real discussions in front of your students, in a way that they see, not a polished version of a professional, but rather than they see people that they relate to, that they see in and out every Sunday, serving in their local churches. And they can go, hey, I’m just like that guy, or I’m just like that woman. And they’ve navigated this well also.

Also find ways to really highlight the students who have left your student ministry and done well. Don’t do it in a way that puts them on a pedestal, don’t do it in a way that necessarily sets them up to fall. Because we know that adolescence and young adulthood, there are so many pitfalls. And we don’t wanna create an opportunity where we put so much of a burden on individuals backs, but allow those who are doing well, the opportunity to come back and speak life to your students when they are. When you know they’re coming back for Thanksgiving after they’ve been at college and you’ve seen them, take the opportunity for them to just come back and say, hey to your seniors, that are soon to be making that transition.

There’s a good local guy here named Tommy McGregor, who his whole ministry is built around transitions. He’s a great resource, if any of you want to look him up Tommy McGregor. But he has several books that he’s written about this transition. And one of the ways that he challenged me a few years ago when he and I were talking, was he made the mention of asking me, how many of my students do I visit on college campuses? And I, like you know, in my context here at Eastmont, we have a college pastor. And so part of me, I guess, took this procrastination form, like we were talking about earlier, where once they were away from me, hey, good luck to my college pastor, hope you do well. And rather than me and our college pastor teaming up and go into college campuses. I know we have students at Troy. Why don’t he and I drive down the Troy and go have lunch with them one day on campus. Hey, why don’t y’all bring some of your friends that you’ve met, we’ll buy you lunch, we just wanna see how life is going. But find opportunities to continue to be involved in their lives, not to hover over them, not to be helicopter parents. Because they need to taste freedom too.

But some of those continuing connections, need to still be there. As they stretch their wings, we wanna be able to know. Send them text messages, send them emails, like some of the things that they’re doing on Instagram. It just lets them know in the back of their mind, hey, my youth pastor didn’t just like me because he was paid to but my youth pastor likes me because I matter to him. And he’s still following me here in college and he still sees what I’m doing. Shoot them a message in the morning and sometime, and tell him hey, I’m praying for you today. Keep them on your prayer list. But let them know that they don’t simply matter to you because they’re under the age of 18. They matter to you because they were created in the image of God. And for whatever reason, God saw fit to give you spiritual influence over their lives for a particular period of time. And now you cannot wait to see the ways that they serve the kingdom, now that they’re out from immediately under your umbrella of coverage. And that’s made a huge difference in connection, continuing connections with me and students.

And as they’ve grown up now, I still have students now who call me or text me, that are you know, that are 25 years old and 26 years old and they’re married and they’re having their first kid. And they’re reaching out to me and they’re saying, I thank you for this, or, hey, I saw something you did at your new church now. And, man that makes all the difference there. That’s a great way that you can help that transition also. Is just not quitting on them, but as they move on I mean, it’s almost like the way Jesus made disciples, right? He says, hey, I’m going somewhere, but I’m gonna be with you, right? You won’t see me but I’m gonna be with you still, right. And that’s kind of our opportunity there as well. Is, hey, you’re not gonna be seeing me as much but, and, I’m still with you just as much. The spirit unifies us and I’m watching you as you continue along your way. So there’s some great opportunities as well.

Scooter Kellum

Well, Cleve I wanna say thank you so much for your information today. And it is about that time that we need to wrap up and make sure that we honor and respect everybody’s time. I do want to say thank you for Bill and Denis and Jon and Emily and Abby for all of their contribution to this. And I know that, thank you for campus ministers for investing in so many, in connecting to your local churches. Because we are just a way to try and get them involved in a ministry on campus so then we can send them out there to be a part of local churches. And so I just wanna thank you for joining us today. I do recognize that this is a resource of the Alabama State Board of Missions and we can only do this because of giving through Cooperative Program. And so we’re so thankful for churches that come together and work together, cooperating together and giving together so that we can provide resources for our churches and for our ministers. And hopefully make an impact in the lives of students and help them grow in their faith as they leave and graduate college. So thanks for joining us today. Thanks, Chris, thanks, Doug. And we will see you next time.

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