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Preparing Graduates to Connect Their Faith with Their Future Career and More

Editors’ note: 

This is one of several interviews with practitioners who work with college students as well as reflections written by college seniors from universities across the country—Penn State, Samford, Grove City, Princeton, Columbia, and more.

The transition from college to life after college is challenging. In May, as graduating seniors approach the end of their university careers, they want to find coherence between their academic training and the realities of post-college life. They need both perspective and resources as they look for answers to questions they may not even know they should be asking:

  • How should I manage money when I have a mountain of debt . . . or when I earn more than I’ve ever had?
  • How will I find friends and a life-giving local church if I move to an unfamiliar place and I know no one?
  • How can I live faithfully in the workplace?
  • How do I make decisions when I’m dealing with the pressure to please my parents, professors, peers, or even myself?
  • How do I put Christ at the center of every area of my life?

Everything Matters

“Everything Matters” was the theme of this year’s Jubilee Conference—a three-day experience hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach that brings together more than 2,500 college students to learn about how all things—including their academic pursuits and fields of study—matter to God.

Instead of deeming certain professions more pleasing to God, Jubilee helps students figure out what it means to live as people of faith in all fields—science, art, music, law, medicine, and so on. Because it all matters—“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Christ is Lord of all things, and he is reconciling all things to himself, including the work of our hands (Colossians 1:15-20). As our students pray, “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), it is crucial that they grasp a vision of their vocation that involves connecting their faith to their future career and more.

Packing Their Post-College Bags

For nearly a decade, a team of co-laborers and I have walked alongside dozens of college students as they have entered senior year, experienced the range of emotions and decisions unique to this time, and embarked on their journey into life after college. Through a program called Senior EXIT, we help to prepare these students for the next phase of life.

Some students are tempted to reduce the transition to a simple checklist of a few items necessary for graduation (résumé, job offer, diploma), but we help them consider the many ways that preparedness goes beyond this list. Through full-day retreats and shorter workshops, we address the most important topics and issues they will face after graduation—finances, finding a church, relationships, family, decision-making, work, worldview, and so on. We seek to “pack their bags” with the tools and perspectives they will need—things they can pull out along the way to help navigate and normalize the journey.

We also work to connect them with “mentors by major”—introducing them to people of faith in their field of study who can help them to anticipate the opportunities and potential pitfalls in their work. Mostly, though, we simply spend time with them at Senior EXIT touch points—serving as sounding boards and encouraging presences in a potentially stressful time.

Connecting Career to Christ’s Kingdom

As our students prepare for life after college, we often encounter two perspectives. On the one hand, some students opt out of full-time vocational ministry because they have debt, fear fundraising, or want a big paycheck. On the other hand, some students believe that professional ministry work is the best or only way to honor God; they are not sure how work in the marketplace matters.

We hope to show both of these groups how their particular fields of study matter to God—that work is inherently good and spiritual. We want them to understand that all callings matter because they are means by which God expresses his goodness, care, and love to his creation. With this view, they can live faithfully in every field as they wrestle with its goodness and its brokenness.

Finish Line with Somewhere to Go

Some have dubbed these graduates “The Screwed Generation” (because of the economy, lack of jobs, loan debt, federal deficit, dying middle class, post 9/11 nation, and so on), but Senior EXIT offers a different perspective. We encourage them that, as Christ-followers, they live for a greater reality (Colossians 2:17)—one in which hope is not found in a job offer, an economic upturn, or personal wealth, but in the fact that the God of the universe sustains and carries them (Isaiah 46:3-4). We encourage them to choose hope, even in difficult times. For hope always leads and is “an anchor for our soul” (Hebrews 6:19). We assure them that even seasons of unemployment or waiting for a job offer or living with parents matters—that God does not waste even these stretches.

More than anything, we pray they will know that God is GOD—a constant and known in every dynamic and uncertain time. And they are HIS; the whole of their lives matters to him, the one who pursues and provides for them, even—and especially—in life right after college.