As you celebrate graduates in your congregations, I join you in offering praise for the youth and young adults achieving this milestone as well as blessings for the journey ahead.
I know that you care deeply about the on-going spiritual development of your young people. The years ahead of them are marked by new independence, increasing responsibilities, physical transitions, and continued formation of identity. A recent conversation with a director of campus ministry got me thinking about some ways that we can partner to continue to foster discipleship.
Some of your youth may continue to live and work at home. Think how you can support them in their adult roles to build healthy boundaries as they ‘graduate’ from youth group. You might invite them to participate on a ministry team or board or take a leadership role in worship. You could also suggest wider church leadership events, such as serving as a delegate to the SNEUCC Annual Gathering on Sept. 26.
Some may be taking a gap year. Perhaps there is an adult member of the congregation who can provide mentoring in an area of interest. You might point them to UCC service programs, or internships with non-profits.
For those who are heading off to college, you can facilitate an introduction to help them connect with a faith community or a Campus Minister. This will help set up a welcoming community before they even set foot on campus. (For example, students who are going to the University of Connecticut might like to reach out to Storrs Congregational Church, which has a program called UCC UCONN).
You can also reach out to a pastor of a nearby church and provide an introduction. If you would like recommendations or help with match-ups to churches in Southern New England, feel free to contact me. You can also search for UCC churches by city using the UCC find a church link.
I pray that each youth will be supported by a faith community that will help them wrestle with questions, celebrate joys, and navigate challenges. May their development of discipleship continue to bring them God who loves them.
Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...