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Transitioning from Collegiate Ministry to the Real World

March 24, 2022
Rodney Norvell

Adulting is a new word that has entered our vocabulary and was named the word of the year in 2017.  The truth is campus ministers have been helping college students become spiritual adults long before then.  However in recent years we did notice that our college graduates had a rough time finding jobs and making it on their own.  They seemed to thrive in BCM culture, but flounder as single adults or even young couples looking for church connections.  They had a lot of knowledge but several were often lacking practical abilities to survive in the real world.  Often too proud to ask for help, but clearly struggling to find their place they needed something extra.  We decided that we needed to do more for seniors than have a nice dinner to say congratulations for graduating.  We needed to help them transition to being an active adult that could not only find, but maybe even create spiritual community.

We decided that we would offer a seminar type bible study that was discussion oriented and really open to asking questions.  We covered everything from how to deal with the job search and rejection to how to tithe and find a church after college.  The response was very positive.  We didn’t know how positive until I had a parent give a speech at a fundraising banquet who quoted all that her daughter had learned in the Senior Transitions Bible Study.  It meant enough to her that she shared it with her mom! For our study we try to cover about 6 weeks from the beginning of March to the end of school.  We go back in our records and invite as many seniors as we can find, even the ones that we haven’t seen since their freshman year.  Encouraging them to finish well and reconnect with friends that they have had over their time in college.

We give out a schedule of weekly topics and the dates then start the study in a home, the most likely place that they will be creating community in the future.  We start by hearing stories and dreams of where they want to be after graduation and offer a lot of encouragement.  Then we have several people who have graduated to share their stories (often via video) about how they struggled after college.  Not trying to be a dream crusher, but in a way to say it is okay if things don’t work out the way that you are planning.  We discuss letting go of college in order to grab ahold of the next thing.  Some students that stayed in town talk about needing to actually join a new church because being in the same church and not going to college group was too hard.  We share best practices of moving to a new location and making friends.  We talk about serving and investing in a church and not necessarily looking for a handout anymore.  We talk about a healthy theology of work.  We talk about communication with parents and how to involve them, but exhibit independence with respect.  We talk about putting boundaries on work to prioritize church and relationships.

One of our longest seminars is always the one on finances and answering tons of questions from renting or buying a home, to how much would be reasonable to spend on an engagement ring.  There is no better time to encourage them to give back to your ministry than from the beginning, instead of waiting until they strike it rich.  We talk about the dangers of wealth and the security that living within your means brings you in the long run.  We talk about budgets, priorities, and paying off student debt, which you need to do to be a missionary, as a way of allowing you to give and go on missions as a lifestyle.

Finally we remind them of all the things that they learned in BCM that they may now need to do on their own.  Remember this is how you share your faith and connect people to a church.  Remember how we taught you to lead a Bible study, now you may need to do that in your apartment and train someone else.  Other singles or young couples are probably wanting community they just haven’t been invited.  Invite them.  Remember gospel appointments over lunch, now you get to do that at your job.  Remember parties with a purpose, now you get to gather a few friends and start it again in your apartment.  We encourage them, “You can do this–you need to do this–you have been trained to do this–now do it and you will be great at it!  If you can’t find it create it, the church needs you!”  We love it when they call us to tell us about a small group they started because they did not find one after they moved away from college.

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