Tonight is our high school’s baccalaureate service. This is a student-initiated inter-church Christian service for the graduating seniors. A mix of students from various churches lead the worship and students are selected to share about their faith. A pastor in the community that has son or daughter graduating is invited to share a message to the graduating class. For many students, this may be the last Christian service they attend.
Following graduation, there is a summer full of open houses, summer jobs, and heading off to college. Unless the college freshman is attending a religious university with required chapel, many students forgo attending any church and often neglect their spiritual life altogether. A survey by George Barna shows that 65% of Christian high school students will leave their faith. So, if there are 100 Christian students in a room, 65 of them will stop attending church and leave their after they graduate from high school.
Several reasons account for this change. New freedom, the change of routine and busyness of their freshman year changes their routine of life. Proper sleep, balanced diet, regular exercising and many other healthy disciplines are cast aside during college years.
Another reason their spiritual life is neglected is because it was something they had to do while growing up in their family and had never become a real relationship with God who loves them. I call this the “take your medicine” or “eat your vegetable” syndrome. They had to do it because they were told it was good for them, but the more they went, the less they enjoyed Christianity.
Many students face the same temptations in college that they did in high school, but now away from family or friends experimented and after plunging in, found it difficult to get out. Other students had never thought critically about the big questions of life. A brilliant professor or the belief systems of other students pulled them off of unsecured moorings. Still other students walk away from their faith because they grew tired of seeing people profess faith in Christ, but did not live a faith in Christ.
The baccalaureate service comes at the beginning of a student’s most important years of their lives. The next five years many students serve in the military, graduate from college or tech school, start a career, marry and begin a family. More than ever, they need the words from the Bible to transform their lives.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NLT)
But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
What would you say to the graduating class if you were giving the baccalaureate message?