We are in a season where many parents are dropping their kids off at college. For most of my years as a youth pastor I didn’t really understand the significance of this rite of passage.

I do now!

I know it too well. I’ve done it twice and I don’t look forward to doing it a final time in two years.

Leaving my kids at college as I drove away has been by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. I now have a new sense of empathy for parents who go thru this.

There’s a strong feeling of loss. Loss triggers fear. Fear ignites pain. Pain…well, pain sucks.

Last year, when we took our only son to college I wept like a baby. I included this photo because I wanted you to see my shirt (look closely)… those aren’t stains, those are tears.

My red, swollen eyes tell the story of feelings that were difficult to control.

I write all of this because I believe that churches/ministry leaders have a great opportunity to come alongside parents during their grief. If I had to do it all over again, I’d send the following letter to parents of college freshmen (who are moving away).

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Spankmeyer,

I wanted to write to let you know that our church

[youth ministry, team, etc] is praying for your family during this season of transition. I don’t know the exact pain/joy/emotion you are going thru, but I’ve talked to enough parents to know that sending your child off to college isn’t easy. We are supporting you in prayer.

As a church family we rejoice and grieve with you.

During this first year of college our Student Ministry will be in touch with your son [daughter] and we will be cheering him on, encouraging him to plug into a church, and letting him know that he’s loved.

As you know, you’re not alone in your feelings and there are many parents who have gone before you in this transition. I know that if you ever wanted to talk to another parent who has “been there” I can facilitate that connection. Please let me know.

It has been our privilege to have had your son in our youth ministry, and we will continue to come alongside your family and help provide for your spiritual needs.

Please know that you’re love and we’re excited to see what God is going to do in/thru Jason’s life.

Please let me know if I can help in any way.


When the fall season rolls around, there is so much to do in the average church and those going off to college are often forgotten. I want to encourage you not to be “an average church” and take a minute to care for these families in transition.

It’s a big deal. Let them know you understand.

Question: What do you do to help families with this unique transitional season of life?