Today I’m sitting at a coffee shop reading this book and trying to get over the fact that my girls, my small group, the ones I’ve walked with for the last four years will be seniors in FOUR MONTHS.
And if I’m honest, I’m equal parts excited and nervous and proud and anxious for them (is that a tiny piece of what it’s like to be a parent?). In the last few years, I’ve seen this group of girls grow and change and face unbelievable challenges as each lives their own remarkable story. But at the same time I can’t help but think of all the plot twists that lie ahead in their stories.
Some will go to college. Maybe all. Some will stay at the same school while others move around. Some will find friends easily while others struggle. Some will find a faith community right away while others may wander from faith altogether.
When I think about college and life after college, I want to run to each of them with a list of reminders about their faith and their identity and their family and their relationships. I want to give them a list of truths to hold onto BEFORE THEY GO.
And that’s exactly what I’m going to do when I hand them this book. My friend and colleague and one of the BEST thinkers I know, Gerald Fadayomi, wrote Before You Go with the high school senior in mind.
Here’s what I love about it: Each section comes with…
A letter: Each section has a letter from someone who has been there. We all know that what we say to our students never lands as squarely on their psyche as something they talk about with a peer. And each one of these letters gets to the heart of where a high school senior or high school graduate is living. On page 37, Riley writes Stand firm, love well and don’t stop pursuing….I’m rooting for you!
A lesson: Following each letter is a lesson from filled with real-world wisdom about where students are right now and how to prepare for what is coming next. Things like, “don’t think of faith as a straight line” and “love Jesus more than your local church” and “adult service is your service”. I know as my girls grow into college-age women, the truths in this book are going to help them find their place outside our youth group and in the Church.
Questions: Truth isn’t helpful if you don’t know how it relates to you. And I LOVE how at the end of each section there are targeted questions (and lots of space for writing) to help a student process what this means for them. One question asks “what makes me nervous about attending adult church services?” and it’s followed up by brainstorming ways to listen in the adult service and make content more applicable. Brilliant.
Action steps: Knowing and doing are always different. One of my favorite parts of this book is at the end of each chapter when Gerald challenges students to do something to apply the truth. In one area, it’s writing down their hopes and real plans for the future. In another, it’s writing down dates and times they’ll follow up on an important goal.
As a small group leader and mentor, I realize I’m incredibly lucky. My girls have had the benefit of sitting under brilliant youth pastors in amazing facilities with wonderful programming Their. Whole. Lives. In many ways, our ministry leaders and environments are what have gotten us this far. But in four months, we’ll begin to get them ready for what faith looks like at the next stage, in different towns, with different leaders, and a different level of responsibility for their own faith journey.
But as their current leader, I’m going to do my best to make sure each one is ready before they go.
If you’re committed to getting your students ready for college before they go, order Gerald’s book (or a bunch of them with a bulk discount), here.