As we head into the fall semester, we know we need to prepare high school seniors for those first few days and months of school to be a very special year.

But we also need to prepare high school seniors for the following fall by helping them transition well to college and life after high school.

A survey from Lifeway in 2017 showed that from the ages of 17 to 19, young Christians increasingly drop out of church attendance, with only 40% attending at age 19. Though they leave for various reasons, and many will return later, this is not a good trend, and churches need to address it.

With a little planning and preparation, churches can help families with the transition from high school to college.

Here are several ideas that a church can use to prepare seniors for the transition to life after high school.

Offer a workshop for parents about transition to college
Patrick Austin, director of college ministry at Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, offers a workshop for parents of high school students in the fall. He helps them prepare to guide students through the process of choosing a college, leaving home and maturing in their faith. He helps parents see the need for listening to hard questions, not assuming their kids are believers, and preparing them for a secular environment. You can listen to the Collegiate Partnerships interview with Austin here.

Create a transition curriculum for seniors
Don’t just talk about transitioning in a general way, but spend time in actual discussions about problems and opportunities that will arise after high school.

Consider creating a special curriculum for eight to ten weeks that will address issues like: finding a church and community on campus; financial responsibility; how to balance academic, social and spiritual life; relating to parents after high school; dating; and how to get along with roommates.

I have found students to be very responsive working through such a curriculum. Keep improving your curriculum by asking returning freshmen what topics helped them the most in their first year of college and what needs to be added.

Help connect students to churches while in college
How good is your referral network? In the age of the internet, finding a church is easier than ever before. But many students don’t take the time to look.

Discover ways to help parents and students find churches where they are potentially going to college early in the process. Suggest they include visiting a potential church while visiting a college campus. Keep a list of churches that have welcomed students in the past, and make sure church members know about them.

Help students be culture makers, not just culture consumers
Students often wonder how to find community. But instead of being at the mercy of someone else to provide it for them, equip students to gain confidence in creating their own community.

This confidence starts by a discipleship that allows them to do, not just learn. Do your senior students have opportunities to give testimonies, help with Bible study, or share their faith? How can students learn and share together? How can they be enabled to create community and share the truth of the gospel through their unique gifts and talents?

With a little planning and preparation, churches can help families with the transition from high school to college.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like to learn more about high school transitions or a College Student Plan, please contact the Collegiate Partnerships team.