The last session of the Orange tour was totally unexpected. Reggie warned everyone that he wasn’t offering solutions, but simply beginning a conversation. He also encouraged us to stay engaged because he was going to talk about something that most of us in the room thought little about, College Ministry. He shared an interesting statistic from Lifeway.

Of 23-30 year olds who stayed in the church during ages 18-23, only 6% are not currently still in church. (This is probably not exact wording)

Studies have shown that the year after graduation, a significant majority of kids who have been involved in church all their lives “check out” of church, many to never really come back. However, the Lifeway study above shows that if we can get them to stick with it for those critical college years, they’re most likely to make a life-long commitment to a local church. We all know that this isn’t just about attending a church, but if they’re in church, it’s more likely that they have a relationship with Christ.

So, Reggie suggested that the church has been programed to draw a finish line at the end of the 12th grade. The problem though is that we’re abandoning our kids when the stakes are the highest. The solution might be to move the finish line out an additional four years. We’ve invested in these kids for YEARS and taking care of them during their college years is about protecting that investment and ensuring that what’s been put into them comes to maturity.

This isn’t about “a” college ministry. Small groups, bands, relevant teachers and social events. It’s about seeking out college students and investing in them during these critical years. It’s about every leader taking ownership of this need, investing in a student. Your ability to appeal to college students isn’t as important as your ability to be authentic with a young adult. This is a an issue where everyone needs to be be “in.” Maybe it’s 12th grade small group leaders continuing to reach out to the kids they led in High School even though they may have scattered across the US.

Whatever happens, we have to be more intentional about this problem. For the past few years, I’ve had a soap box where I’ve suggested that most Children’s Ministries are measuring success the wrong way. Rather than judge success in how many kids we have attending this years as opposed to last year, we should be measuring if the kids we had in 5th grade 13 years ago are still following Christ. Yeah, it’s probably near to impossible to measure, but permanent life change is what we’re after, not a bigger crowd. Until we figure this out, how to help kids grow up into adults who love and follow Christ with all their hearts, we’re just fooling ourselves into feeling good about temporary (and potentially meaningless) successes.

So, what do you think?