Not What He Expected

When life after college does not pan out as expected, it can be easy to question, “Have done something wrong? Did I make a mistake in moving here, taking this job, or marrying this person?”

Just because something feels disorienting or distressing, it doesn’t mean we need to go somewhere else. In fact, we might be exactly where we need to be. Recent graduate, Jeff Schallick, comes to realize that his life and work have not turned out as expected. BUT, he’s not throwing in the towel. Instead, Jeff is determined to be faithful to his present calling, trusting in a bigger view and better dreamer for his life than himself.

Read more here…

Launching College Students Who Land in the Local Church

By September of his senior year, David had two great job offers. Two offers. In two totally different cities. As he compared the hiring packages, starting salaries and corporate cultures for each position, we challenged him to consider one more factor: location. As his campus ministers, we asked, Which offer will land you in a place where you can find a healthy church?

More Than an Afterthought

As students prepare for life after college, too often they focus a few items necessary for living on their own: securing a job, finding an apartment, having a paycheck in hand, and so on. Church becomes an afterthought. If we want to equip students to land in a local church after college, we need to help them consider this aspect of their lives long before they actually transition. There are many reasons why students don’t connect to a church after graduation: they can’t find one they like, they don’t know how to search, or they’re not convinced it matters. In the challenges of transitional times, church may feel like “one more thing” in the midst of other priorities.

If we want students to choose church, first and foremost we must offer a robust ecclesiology – what church is and why we go. Recent graduates need the church and the church needs them. They also need to know that their church experience in the next phase may look very different from college, and that’s okay! Most churches are not filled with individuals who are the same age or in the same life stage as they are. Age (and other) diversity may be an adjustment for some alumni. That’s why it’s crucial to offer good theology and healthy perspective. Church, in all of its mess and beauty, allows God to manifest his glory, us to experience community and the world to find hope. We are all diminished without it.

Students who understand why church matters are better prepared to find one when they leave. Post-college life requires purposefulness. Perhaps like no other time, accountability structures and social momentum have been removed; the onus is on them. If recent graduates know why they’re looking (it’s all about Jesus, not about me) and what they’re looking for (there’s no perfect church and no two churches are alike), they can make a short list of the non-negotiables they’re searching for in a church but be open from there.

List Non-Negotiables, Leverage Networks, & Consider Place

On a practical level, we can help our students discern their list of non-negotiables. For example, they can choose their musts (i.e. gospel-centered, bible-believing), their wants (i.e. band-led worship, people my age), and those things they’re flexible about (i.e. service times, small group structure). Also, we can help them leverage their network and ours for church recommendations. We keep a database of church recommendations that current students and alumni can access. Students can use it for suggestions, and once they’ve graduated and land in a local church, they can update the database with their recommendations.

Last but never least, let’s help our students consider place. We encourage students to think about moving to a location where they know they will have good church options, or if they’re not sure what’s next, we challenge them to move for a church community or church plant instead of for a job!

David took our challenge seriously. In fact, location was a key factor in accepting one offer over the other. He did some reconnaissance and learned that one of the positions would land in him in a city with dry spiritual soil and few gospel-centered churches. The other position took him to Philadelphia where he quickly plugged into a growing local church. Months later, David discovered that the job he accepted was not a fit. One could argue that he should have accepted the other offer! However, David does not see it this way at all. Because he had such a great church community, David was surrounded by support when he decided to leave his job. And, this community is the very reason he chose to find a new job in the area.

David credits the conversations he had during his senior year as pivotal in helping him find a healthy church after graduation – a crucial part of why he’s thriving beyond college…and why he has no desire to relocate. He’s found a church and community he wouldn’t trade.

This article first appeared in the Association of College Ministry Newsletter, © February 2018. Adapted from After College by Erica Young Reitz. © 2016 by Erica Young Reitz.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

Change is the Only Constant: Wisdom from a Graduating Senior

In her Onward State column, photographer and graduating senior, Sarah Snyder, looks back on her college journey, which did not play out as she predicted. Instead of freaking out or throwing her hands in the air when things did not go as planned, Sarah embraced the unknown. She writes, “There are always so many blessings in the unknown that you’ll miss if you’re focused on what didn’t go according to plan.”

Sarah’s reflection offers hope for today and wisdom for tomorrow, especially as graduation is here! Change is coming. But, as Sarah says, “[W]e are given the choice to look at change as either something to be afraid of, or an opportunity for growth.”

Life’s “disruptions” lead to growth. In fact, transitions—like graduation—can be times when God does some of His best heart work in us if we’re open to it. We hope you have the courage to freefall into the unknown, trusting that God is there to catch you, teach you, and carry you through to the next adventure!

Check out Sarah’s column as well as this previous guest post by Sam Van Eman on 3 Ways Graduation and Other “Disruptions” Lead to Growth.

Millenials & Money: What’s Your M.O. & Is it Working?

Financial faithfulness — how we steward the money that God allows to pass through our hands — is not easy, especially right after college. If we want to pursue a healthy approach, one of the best things we can do is take an honest look at our current habits.

Penn State alum and innovator, Paul Girgis, recently completed a project where he interviewed millennials on their approach to money management. He and his co-researcher captured their major takeaways and common themes. Take a look at their findings and consider your own situation.

  • What resonates with you from their research?
  • Do you tend to avoid money management/deal with it in a reactive vs. proactive way?
  • Is there someone you typically look to for money advice? Is this person wise?
  • How can you “start small” with investing or other steps toward a healthy financial future?

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know: Community After College

What’s one of the top issues post-graduates face? Finding friends and community. I had a blast this past weekend talking with students about this issue and others at CCO’s Jubilee Conference.

See below for some of what we discussed.

Just Tell Me What I Need to Know: Community After College

It’s Friday night. After a long week, you just want to relax—preferably with a group of friends or even just one. The only problem is that there’s no one to hang out with.

Sound familiar? This was a picture of many of my Friday nights right out of college: sitting in front of the TV, eating DiGiorno’s pizza and feeling pretty sorry for myself that I had no friends. Though I value alone time, I was not prepared to spend night after night by myself, especially after experiencing such rich community in college.

Read more here…

This article first appeared on the InterVarsity Blog on June 23, 2016.

Two Truths and a Lie About Singleness

When I was in my mid-twenties, my friend Kimi and I entered an essay contest for twentysomething writers that invited us to explore a question that was keeping us up a night. Kimi wrote a thoughtful piece about race issues and ethnic identity. I, too, had deep questions related to politics, justice, and so on, but when it came down to it, my real burning question was about boyfriends. Or the lack thereof. I titled my piece “Twentysomething and Single” and wrote about a question I was asked almost weekly at the time by anyone from family members to close friends to perfect strangers: “So, are you in a relationship?” READ MORE HERE…

This article first appeared on InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Blog, August 4, 2016, as part of the “Just Tell Me What I Need to Know” blog series.

God is Not A Magic 8-Ball

Magic 8 ball

Life is chock-full of choices. Every day we make thousands of little decisions—what to eat, what to wear, how to spend our time or money.  And this doesn’t even include the huge questions we may be contemplating:

  • Where should I go and what should I do after college?
  • Should I go to graduate school or to try to get a job?
  • Where should I go to graduate school? How do I decide which one to pick?
  • Which friendships should I invest in?

These questions can be so overwhelming that it would be nice if someone else could decide for us, right? Or, if God would just send us a text message or e-mail with His answer. Like a magic 8-ball, it would be so much easier if we could ask our big question, and God would tell us, “Signs point to yes” or “My sources say no” or “Reply hazy, ask again later.” But this not how God works. Writer and college career counselor, Bethany Jenkins, suggests that when we treat God like he’s a magic 8-ball, it’s as if we desire His omniscience more than the counsel He wants to give us. She writes,

“When trying to make decisions, our problem is that we’re rarely satisfied with God’s wisdom. We want his omniscience…. We want to know every step, every turn, every possibility, and every outcome.”

We want to know as much as God knows about our situation and decision, and when we don’t (because we can’t!), we become discontent and anxious.

Thankfully, there’s a higher path that leads to freedom. Find out more here!

This post originally appeared on the Senior EXIT blog, January 26, 2016, and it points to The Gospel Coalition post of the same title by Bethany Jenkins on on September 23, 2015. 

Stop Overspiritualizing Calling

Am I called? This question can plague us or send us into analysis paralysis. In this article, Bethany Jenkins helps us stop overthinking, challenges us to start well and work hard (no matter what job we do), and reminds us that we are all called to be children of God.

If you’re agonizing over your next step or what you want to be when you grow up, here’s some wisdom:”God’s far more concerned with how we work—with faith, hope, and love—than with what career we have.” Read more here…