Helping school leavers stick with Jesus Tara Sing
massive transition occurs each summer for
graduating Year 12 students as they farewell the familiar structure of school for the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. As they do this, many also leave church and faith behind: data from the National Church Life Survey shows that a third of Christian school leavers will walk away from church by the age of 19. Laura Anderson says there’s a lot that Christians can do to help young people like her keep following Jesus in this transition time. “It was mainly stopping [attending] the youth group that was the big change for me,” says Miss Anderson, who graduated in 2017. “I didn’t really know [what I was doing].” The care from people at her church, along with watching her older sister graduate two years earlier, helped her to settle into post-school life and continue following Christ.
WHAT MAKES LEAVING SCHOOL A DANGEROUS TIME FOR FAITH? In the Rev Michael Williamson’s 16 years of parish ministry, witnessing school leavers losing their way was an annual event. The current director of Year 13 – Youthworks’ gap year program for school leavers – says there are many reasons why this occurs. “It happens because Christian school leavers are forced to become an expert in all kinds of new things overnight, especially work, money, education and relationships,” he says. “With all that going on, many fail to grow in their faith and become pygmy Christians – not by choice, just by circumstance.” The incoming director of Year 13, the Rev Stephen Shearsby, agrees that students are not prepared for this time of transition. “We put on a lot of pressure with their education and the HSC and eventually it goes away,” he says. “But unfortunately the pressure doesn’t end, it’s just the next pressure. It’s a heavy burden. Jesus’ burden is much lighter, that’s what we want people to hear. Year 13 encourages kids to think about that.” It’s vital for Christians to actively support young people in this time. “The scary statistic [about young people walking away from church] hasn’t changed in 20 years,” Mr Williamson says. “We haven’t responded as churches to this statistic, so we have to respond on the ground.” SC SouthernCross
The news magazine for Sydney Anglicans