college students

Faith's Journey: Walking with Young Adults Beyond High School

I love trying to meet up with former students over the holidays. It's a chance to sit down with them and hear their adventures in college. Hearing their college adventures always brings a smile, especially when those stories intertwine with living their faith. It's extra special when I hear about how they are living their faith through their social life and studies. Knowing that one of our students continues to grow in faith beyond the walls of our church is such a gift. It's a reminder that all the hard work and sacrifices had a positive impact on that young person. And while we can pat ourselves on the back we have to wonder, "Is it enough?"

One of the hardest parts of ministry is realizing that despite our efforts, in the end, a relationship with God is a decision that each person has to make on their own. Yet, amidst these heartwarming stories, I'm reminded of a challenging truth. There have been teens who were heavily involved in our parish who walked away as adults and others who barely made it to Mass but are flourishing in faith. It's a reminder that while we can have an impact on a young person's faith, ultimately, we are only a piece of the puzzle. So, instead of throwing our hands up in the air exclaiming, "What's the point?" We have to figure out ways to amplify our impact. But how can we ensure that our efforts bear the fruit of lifelong faith?

If you want to help your young people grow, even after they graduate high school then you need to make sure you:


Our parish has a great combination of young people who go away for school, others who stay local to take classes at community colleges, and others enter the workforce. As you commission young people into the next chapter of life, how are you helping them engage in a faith-filled community? Have you considered the power of a supportive faith community in shaping a young adult's life?

Ideally, you could hold a workshop for high school students and their parents talking about how faith can play a role in their education choices. We should be helping families not only look at a university's affiliation but what campus life looks like and what faith-based opportunities are available. Don't assume because a college has a saint's name that it's a great place for them to grow.

You can also research your local college's campus ministry. Invite any of the leaders to visit your parish, and introduce them to parents and the teens. Build a bridge before they even head there. Even if the colleges are not local figure out what universities have connections with organizations like FOCUS and Newman Ministry. Look at ways you can highlight these options so that families are considering them when discerning what to do next.

If you have young people who are staying local, but not choosing further education, make sure you continue to extend invitations for them to participate in events and opportunities connected to your parish or diocese. Above all else, make sure they are connected to the community so that they remember the relational aspect of their faith. 


It's easy to lose touch with parents when their kids go off to college. However, if we want to continue to invest in our teens after they go away, keeping the relationship with parents is crucial. Parents will be able to tell you how their kids are doing, giving you insight into the impact your ministry had in their lives.

It's also good to let parents know that you still care about them, even though their kid is no longer at the parish. Making sure they connect with the community and have an opportunity to grow post-kids is critical. You don't want parents walking away because they don't see anything for themselves. How often do we reach out to these parents, reminding them that they are still a vital part of our faith community?

If you keep the parents growing in their faith, they'll continue to have that impact on their children as they become adults. When students come back from break, they'll see that the Church is still a part of their family's life. It's easier for you to welcome them back and minister to them.


Our leaders spend four years with the same students. When their small group heads off to college we know a few of them are wondering, "What do I do next?" The idea of committing another four years seems like a lot, and that's why we suggest they spend the next one or two walking with their teens through college.

Some of our leaders schedule a monthly video call where they check in, others have a group chat and then a few who are local still gather every week. The purpose of having your leaders journey with the students is to make the transition from one season of life to the next easier. Over the years we've seen college students and young adults call up their small group leaders when they have big life questions or need guidance.

I've experienced this myself as a leader, and it's a reminder that just because the program is over, the relationship doesn't have to end. But to make that happen you have to put the idea in your leader's and student's minds, and give them ideas to stay in touch. What steps can we take to ensure that these valuable relationships continue to provide guidance and support?

If we want to help students grow beyond their college years, we have to help them with the transition. That means committing to walk with them into the unknown, staying in touch with those they love, and connecting them to new relationships that will impact them in the next stage. And when we walk with people through transitions, we remind them that they are never alone and God is with them, no matter their season of life. 

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