For many schools, the year is just about done. Here at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, our students graduate in just two weeks, and about half of our students will not come back for our second or third year program. Just like natural mothers and fathers, seeing our children leave the nest is never easy. Our heart is to make sure students are ready to leave, strong enough to face the “real world,” and have the ability and grace to transform their worlds for the kingdom.
We at School Planting want to tell you, you’re doing a good job! You’ve loved your students well. But, just in case you’re concerned for your students, here are four keys to make sure they are prepared as possible for the “real world.”
1. Always Connect Them to Jesus
In the midst of things, it can be easy to forget s to connect your students to Jesus. Sometimes it’s much more simple to give them the answer, or get them into counselling or connect them with a life coach. The reality is, your best mentoring strategy is to always point them to Jesus. He has all the answers because He is the best answer.
This should be done from the very beginning of the school year. When a student asks you for advice about a specific problem, it’s actually not your job to give them the answer. Your job is to point them to the Answer. If you haven’t done this before, try it the next time a student asks you for advice. When they ask their question, ask them what Jesus has said about their problem. If they don’t know, give them a moment right then and there to ask Him. Guide them through the process if necessary (especially at the beginning of the school year). Have your students shut their eyes and say, “Jesus, what do You think about _____?” It doesn’t have to be those exact words, it can be something similar. Have them share what Jesus said with you, and go from there in your mentoring.
Encourage your students to connect with Jesus about every aspect of their lives before coming to you for advice. Your goal should be to foster dependency on Christ and avoid codependency on you and your leadership team. Your students should become used to seeking the Lord about the issue before seeking staff counsel. At the same time, if you notice your students are not processing with your or their peers, ask them what Jesus has been talking to them about recently.
Don’t be surprised if students ask for your help as they hear from the Holy Spirit. Remember, your students are still learning the voice of the Lord, so they may ask you if what they’ve heard is right. If it’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise, it’s more than likely from God (Philippians 4:8).
2. Foster Thanksgiving
Last year, I helped lead a missions trip for about 20 students. Our leader had never led a trip to this particular place, and none of us were quite sure what we were getting into. There were three co-leaders on the trip, and most of the administrative tasks fell to us. There wasn’t a single night we went to bed before 2 AM and we would wake up around 7AM; the days were long and frustrating.
Before we would go to sleep each night, I had the three of us go over what we were thankful for and the good events of the day. They called it my “thankful game.” The reality was, I knew we had to reset our hearts from the difficulties of the day in order to do well the next day. I knew we had to do it that night, so the sun wouldn’t set on our frustration and we could go to bed with clear hearts.
“It becomes really hard to stay depressed about your circumstances when you’re filled with the awareness of the love and goodness of God that surrounds and infuses your life.” – Bill Johnson
Teach your students about thankfulness. Start or end each class time or one-on-one meeting with a moment of thankfulness. Have your students say out loud what they are thankful for. Encourage them to turn to thankfulness when times get tough. A thankfulness journal is a great way to focus on what God is doing and to be able to look back and see what He has done in the past. When we position our hearts in thankfulness, everything that seems so daunting fades away.
3. Teach Them to Connect to Community
Most transformation happens in community. In many schools, community is automatically built in with students connecting with each other at least once or twice a week. At BSSM, we have Revival Groups, Small Groups, Core Groups, and Home Groups all built into our first and second year schedules. Our students have to be plugged into community.
Just about every school deals with a handful of students who refuse to connect to community. These students are blatantly obvious (even though they are desperately trying to hide), and as pastors, it’s our job to find out why they are disconnecting and help them deal with that root, not simply plug them in. Remember Abi Stumvoll’s analogy about the orange trees? Abi showed us that picking the fruit doesn’t get rid of the problem, cutting down the tree at the root gets rid of the problem.
Teach your students how to build community. There are several ways to do this:
- Foster connection outside of class the students establish on their own, such as student-initiated outreach or just spending time together. Celebrate the outside connection during school time.
- Take a month or semester off from leading school-implemented community time yourself after you’ve already modeled what connection time looks like. At the beginning of the month or semester, cast a vision for what you want their connection time to look like. It might be helpful to have the student leaders of your school take ownership of these times.
- Give everyone a chance to lead connection time. For many, the best way to learn is to do. Under the guidance of school leadership, make sure your students have a chance to lead connection time. This will set them up to be able to lead connection time outside of your environment. This is much easier for smaller schools to implement. For larger schools, pick a handful of students – not just the natural leaders, but also the students who aren’t as confident to lead. Champion them as they succeed or fail.
One of my friends said, “It’s God Himself who said that God and man alone isn’t good.” He created Eve so Adam would have community. We need each other to grow. We need each other to discover our blind spots. Community is necessary to be more intimate with God.
4. Don’t Fully Disconnect
After graduation, your students are going to have questions. Once they leave your school, they may feel lost and disconnected from their community that was giving them life. Encourage your leadership team to stay connected with your students. You just spent several months pouring into them, re-establishing a kingdom foundation with them. Immediate disconnect will be difficult for your students.
While it’s important to stay connected, it’s also important to keep your priorities and boundaries in place. Both current and former students are important, but your time with the Lord and then your family are greater priorities. It can be difficult to balance pouring into your current students and maintaining a different level of connection with your former students. Again, the goal is to always point them to Jesus, so don’t be surprised when they need you less and less as time goes on. A great way to offer connection to your former students is to send out email updates about yourself and the school, and asking them how they are doing in return, a couple of times a year.
It’s inevitable that some of your students will not transition well, and that’s okay. You did your best. You loved them well, and you did what you could to connect them to the Father. As mothers and fathers, you want our students to be successful. Teaching them how to connect to the Lord and community are the best ways to set them up for success as they transition out of the school environment.
Strengthen Yourself in the Lord by Bill Johnson