It is graduation season again. It is a time when young students endure just one more final or one last mind-numbing lecture before collecting their degrees and their commencement address.
The commencement speech seldom contains advice that you can actually use. The speaker often receives a generous check for their remarks and they do not want to say anything that might offend someone for fear of being protested, “disinvited,” or blacklisted from future graduation ceremonies.
Since I am not a celebrity, politician or a rich donor, I have very little chance of being invited to a commencement address, much less disinvited. I certainly wouldn’t get paid a large fee to speak to anyone. With that in mind, I think I will give all you recent college grads a few words of advice. My comments are free and they are not designed to please everyone. They are however, from someone who has been there and done that.
If you need to move back home for a while or delay moving out, it’s OK. Millions of others share your plight. If you do though be sure to make your bed and help with the dishes. Offer to pay rent, whether it’s asked or not.
Don’t check your text messages during job interviews. Trust me on this one.
If you’re graduating with significant student loan debt (2011 grads walked away from college owing an average of nearly $27,000), pay it off before you incur more debt. Don’t start your adult life in bondage to creditors. It will set a pattern you might never escape. One of the things that is important is to stay available to God to help others around you when they need it. As long as you are servicing debt, you won’t be fully available to serve Him.
The job market still stinks. I’m sure you have heard about that. The unemployment rate for older teens and post-college 20-somethings hovers around 16%. Don’t lose hope while waiting for your dream job. Any honest work is honorable work in God’s eyes. He will open the right doors in His time if you follow Him. In the meantime, learn everything He wants to teach you while you are where you are right now.
The research about Millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 2000) says you that they want to experience the wider world up close. They want to see it, touch it, and interact with it. Well, now is your opportunity to do just that. Now is the perfect time because you are unfettered by the family and school commitments of the past or the major adult responsibilities that you will face in the future. Go out there and find a place to serve God and others for a year or two, even if it does not specifically contribute to your intended career path.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, which has exhaustively studied Millennials and their relationship to spiritual life says, “One of the characteristics of Millennial life has become the image of the traveler. They want to wander the world, both in real life and in digital ways. They want to feel untethered. There is a trend among young adults of delaying the pressures of adult life as long as possible; they want to embrace a lifestyle of risk, exploration and unscripted moments.”
Mr. Kinnaman continues, “This transience stands in contrast to the staid, predictable, and often over productive experience that most churches seem to offer. The gap is simple: Millennials are a generation that craves spontaneity, participation, adventure and clan-like relationships, but what they often find in churches are featureless programs and moralistic content. Leaders who hope to alter the spiritual journeys of today’s Millennials need to embrace something of a ‘reverse mentoring’ mindset, allowing the next generation to help lead alongside established leaders. Millennials are more willing to be challenged than most church leaders are willing to challenge them.”
I find those thoughts to be very interesting. Even though Millennials approach things very differently than their elders, I think that their approach deserves a lot of merit of its own. They are our future generation and right or wrong, they will be the ones who influence the future.
If you recognized something of yourself in that generational profile, embrace it. Even if Mom, Dad, and your own internal clock are desperately urging you to get a job and settle down. Don’t wander for the sake of wandering. Wander with a purpose: God’s purpose.
God might lead you to the ends of the earth to proclaim His love to people who have never heard the name of Jesus. He might lead you to serve within walking distance of the street or the church that you grew up in. He might lead you to do both. Just be ready when He asks.