Erica Young Reitz, author of After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationship and Faith, gives questions you can ask alumni in order to gauge how well you are fostering faithfulness post-college.
As old saying goes, “the proof is in pudding;” if we want to know if a recipe works, the test is the eating of it. Often we find “proof” of the effectiveness of our ministries in conversions, multiplication and student engagement. While these are important measures, I’d argue that one of best ways to know if our “recipe” works is to look to the lives of our alumni. If our goal is to raise up students who pursue life-wide, life-long faithfulness, then talking with our graduates gives us a gauge on our goals. Are our alumni transitioning well, following Jesus, making disciples? Are they flourishing or floundering? We don’t know unless we ask.
Here are some questions we can ask, preferably during the first 3-6 months after graduation.
1. Have you plugged into a church?
Sadly it’s too common for recent alumni to leave college and the local church. Some don’t know how to find a church, they’re looking for a perfect church or they’re looking for the same experience as their college church or fellowship. When they can’t find that, they give up. On the other hand, there are seniors who make a commitment to move for a church or community, rather than a job. When our students see the “where” (location) of their postgrad plans as important as the “what” (occupation), they position themselves to not only find a life-giving body of believers, but also to plug in beyond Sunday morning. We can help by asking them if they’ve found a church and chosen to commit, encouraging them to make that happen within the first 3-4 months of moving to a new location. We point our seniors and alumni to NAMB’s send cities as well as our own church locator, and we invite them to help us update it once they’ve landed!
2. How’s the job (search)?
More and more a bachelor’s degree does not translate into a viable vocation. Our recent alumni may find themselves working at Starbucks, in entry-level positions that don’t match their passions, or still looking to land something. Or they may have found their dream job! Regardless, we can remind them that work is good (not a necessary evil as our culture often tells us). We can also help them see that God doesn’t waste any stretch, even a “whatever job” or unemployment. We should ask them how they’re dealing with the gossip culture, difficult co-workers or supervisors, and life-work balance. We can ask them if they’ve found a mentor. If you’re looking to help your alumni find career mentors who will help them integrate faith and work, I recommend The Baton Exchange, a resource that matches graduates with life-to-life mentors in their field.
3. How’s your love life?
Ok, maybe don’t ask it quite like that, but if we’re not checking in on relationships, we’re missing a huge part of what’s often the minds of twentysomethings. Perhaps one of the best ways we can help them is to make sure they’re not living in the “after life,” as my pastor calls it. “After I find a relationship, get married, have children…, then my life will really start.” While I’ve spent more time encouraging singles that the window for meeting a mate doesn’t close after college, I also talk to newlyweds who are wondering if they’ve made a mistake as well as alumni who have little interest in dating or marriage. Whether they’re struggling in a new marriage, desiring a relationship or delaying marriage, it’s important to help them see why, and to make sure their hopes are rooted in a biblical foundation for marriage and singleness.
4. Will you give back?
While some of us only reach out to our alumni to ask for money, others of us could use some prodding to make that ask. When we open up this conversation, it creates an opportunity to discuss budgeting, a top issue for recent graduates. We can ask how they are (or aren’t) honoring God with the money He’s entrusted to them. We can help them live within their means and invite them to give generously. Whether we’re asking them to give back, tithe to their local church or invest in global needs, talking about money is one of the most practical ways to love alumni. If they are not yet living on budget, I recommend daveramsey.com and youneedabudget.com.
5. How can I encourage you?
Life right after college is hard. Our alumni need encouragement that faithfulness and flourishing is possible. I find that when I ask this question, the most important things rise to the surface. Whether they need encouragement in the area of finances, relationships, work, or faith, we should find out what’s really going on so we pray with and for them.
Ultimately, our ministries and alumni thrive because of God’s goodness and favor. While the true proof of our effectiveness is something we will never fully comprehend this side of heaven, I hope we can learn more about our current ministry from the stories of our alumni. Let’s check-in as they’re in transition, ask good questions, and help them thrive after college!
Don’t forget to check out Erica’s first book After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationship and Faith releasing this August (2016) with InterVarsity Press.