They graduated and spent their last summer in the youth ministry, but where did they go this fall? When they became college freshmen? If you're having trouble connecting with the students that just left your youth ministry, you're not alone. And, there may be some things you can do to "mind the gap" in this next year.
X You Are Here. When students leave the youth ministry, where do they go next? Is it close to the youth building? Are you asking them to cross a parking lot, or go to a space that is far away from where they have been? It may sound silly, but your location might be creating a barrier for students. They have left friends in the youth group behind, and taking the initiative to go to a space far from where they have been might be enough to keep them from making the effort. If moving isn't an option, be intentional about finding students to help build relational bridges.
Invest in the Youth Ministry. What do current youth know about the college ministry in your church? Do they know you as the leader? Students need to have a picture of where they will go next and who will be there. Let them see college students serving in the youth ministry. Have college students share testimonies about a college mission trip or retreat. If you're the college minister, offer to speak at a youth event, or serve as a leader at youth camp. Get to know the students who will be in your college ministry next year, or in two or three years.
Remove the Stop Sign. Work with the youth minister and youth ministry leaders to develop a strategy for ministry that begins in the youth ministry but continues on into the college ministry. Begin to share that plan and vision with students in the youth ministry so they see graduation as a marker, not a stop sign, What will they look forward to as they grow into the college ministry? Leadership? Special mission opportunities? Giving back to the youth ministry where they started? Share the plan with students and parents along the way so that students eagerly embrace the road ahead as they move into the college ministry.