Transitioning to a life of service

In just a few short weeks, millions of brand new college graduates will be hitting the “real world.” So in our ministry it has been difficult to avoid the onslaught of anxieties that accompany this tremendous life transition. We have started a conversation about what the church can offer a transitioning college graduate. Our hope is that these words supply comfort and hope that, amidst the chaos of change, a loving sanctuary awaits. However, solely envisioning what the church can offer you might be a tad short-sighted. So on top of the consistency and community the church provides it also has a call for you as you head into post-college life. I’ll give you a hint: it may not involve weeks or maybe months of binging Netflix. So let’s look ahead and wonder what is it that you, as young adults, can offer the church?

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Hands and Feet

If you are not moving far away from home (which many won’t) or immediately beginning gainful employment (which many don’t), post-college life can be the first time in a long time that you don’t have project groups to meet with, papers due, or textbooks to read. This is an incredible opportunity to explore longer term missions work!

You probably aren’t strangers to the weekend blitz builds or alternative spring breaks that were offered in college, but now could be the best time to go exploring God’s creation and God’s calling on your life with longer missions engagements. For the last two years, a student we met at one of our campus ministry summer projects has been abroad serving in a country they’d never been to. They had done mission trips in college but wanted to find out more about their personal calling as well as get a taste of what it’s like to be grounded and committed to serving a place. God calls us not only to vocations but to places and the hope is that, wherever you go, even if it’s a new place, you will be a blessing.

For our church, as supporters of this student’s mission, this means our arms are now lovingly extended and wrapped around the people in that country this young person is serving! All of a sudden our global missions reach has increased by leaps and bounds. There are hundreds of quality missions organizations out there. Do some Googling and be open to a world of possibilities!

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Questions

If you are on the verge of graduation, I have no doubt that you have been bombarded with questions like, “What are you going to do with that major?” or “What do you think the next five years holds?” I can already sense your heart rate going up. Well it’s time to fire back some questions of your own. One beautiful thing about young adult Christians, especially those who became Christians during college, is that you do not have it all figured out. What exactly does The Bible mean when it talks about God’s glory? How does having “Christ in me” change my life? How do I actively engage in a ministry of reconciliation?

Chances are there are wonderful people in your church that have well-thought out answers to questions like these that are the product of years of wrestling and praying with God. Sometimes though, those answers and insights lay stagnant. Paul constantly writes reminders of the Gospel in his letters. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.”? People need to be reminded of what they believe! Inviting your church community to enter into these big questions with you is an invitation for them to be reminded of God’s goodness, purposes, mercy, grace, etc. Go to adult Sunday school classes, Bible studies, and small groups and bring your questions, your church will thank you!

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Vision for the future

I have mixed feelings about calling our young adults “The Future of the Church.” In many ways, you are that. Literally, you will probably out live many of the people older than you in the church. In the future, you will be the church. However, you are the church right now!

God’s house is multigenerational and God wants collaboration amongst generations. You have the distinct benefit of a lack of experience. You haven’t been to years of vision conferences and church board meetings. You haven’t seen brilliant ideas be employed poorly or seen God transform not-so-brilliant ideas into fruitful ministries. Your dreams for your church may not be new. You may have an idea that has been presented years ago when it wasn’t the right time to employ it, but this could be the perfect time for it to work! Sometimes ignorance comes with courage and with fresh eyes can come creativity, ingenuity, and innovation! I wonder what unique perspective you can offer your community? Seek out venues where you can have a voice. Solicit responsibilities in the church. You do not have to wait to be a culture maker!

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Seeing the church through the lens of transition

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As a student, you have faced a changing cultural climate in higher education. New apartment-style residence halls create an isolating venue that inhibits social interaction. Student loan debt and a difficult job market make it less financially viable to embark out into the world completely on your own after graduation. Students are spending more and more time in college changing majors, adding minors, taking time off, etc. So this life season, when students used to be truly discovering who they are, is spent raising more questions than answers. A space that is meant to unwrap what you will do with the rest of your life is now a space to prepare for a consistent flood of life changes. The sage words of my old high school chemistry teacher still ring in my ears, “I’ve had this job for 30 years, your generation simply won’t experience that. You’ll be lucky to hold a job for more than one or two years at a time.”

As you are faced with a transition out of college, carrying these heavy burdens, where can you look for comfort and guidance? Let me offer you some practical functions of the church that comforted me during the most nomadic seasons of my life.

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Church as a home base

I was in a unique situation leaving college. Not only was I wadding through what life post-graduation meant, I was also still dealing with the recent death of my father. This changed the entire dynamic of my family. In addition to financial concerns, it made sense for me to move back home and live with my mom for her as well as my emotional support. For better or for worse, I was home for the foreseeable future. I decided if I was going to be here, I was going to attend worship service every Sunday and find out what it is like to be committed to a home church. I did it, and started reading my Bible. I began forming relationships with the pastor and other church members. I was establishing stability and strength during a season where constant change made that rare.

Having any form of consistency was beneficial, but creating it through a loving body of Christ that was always willing to serve me was transformational. And not just for me. My mom started noticing that I had a happiness and wholeness that she was struggling to find through her season of grief. She soon started coming with me to church and found that same strength and consistency through a community of her own. She also found her savior and accepted Jesus into her heart.

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Church as a mirror

This stability and consistency I found in church also provided space for me to put some more flesh on my self-identity. Being with other believers and being disciplined with my study of scripture brought me closer to God and gave me a better picture of God as creator. I still had questions after college about who I was and what I was supposed to be doing with my life, and while I didn’t find many specific answers (you can spend your whole life looking for those) I did find a deeper understanding of the ways God created and gifted me. My new found lack of school work post graduation freed me up to study scripture, the nature of God, and myself. The church encouraged me to be faithful in that journey.

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Church as a social network

Isolation is not just socially and emotionally harmful; it can also be vocationally harmful. One thing I learned about college students while in my communication major (one that relies heavily on relationship building) is that the majority of us are bad at networking. We are bad at forming supportive, beneficial relationships. While in graduate school my church and campus fellowship not only supplied the consistency and self discovery I mentioned before, but it supplied contacts in the ministry and communication fields that led to internships and eventually my current job.

God designed us to be in community, and that community can be a blessing to us and, ultimately, can be a blessing to the nations. The church is filled with believers in all walks of life and all areas of vocation. Just imagine the area of creation God is sending you out into! God created the church to bring flourishing to our lives. So as you “pass the peace” this Sunday, don’t be afraid to receive it as well.