When college students graduate they often don’t recognize their biggest assignments are unfinished. Decisions once made during college years are now made during the 20’s. The most recent developmental research shows that young adulthood now extends into the early 30’s. We used to send kids off to college expecting them to graduate as adults. Not so any more. Full adulthood is coming later in life now—as late as age 34 for many. This changes the role of colleges. We used to act like we were “finishing schools” but increasingly we’re more like starting schools. Decisions once faced during the college years are now pushed back into the 20s when college professors are no longer nearby to serve as guides. Parents used to hand off their kids to us expecting us to hand them off to “adult life” on graduation. We now graduate seniors into “extended adolescence” where big life-altering decisions are now made after college. When students walk down the aisle they may be finished doing our assignments, but they often have major life assignments uncompleted.
So, congratulations on your graduation, but your assignments are not done. The assignments of the coming decade are big ones. Years ago we used to say college students faced the three major decisions of life during the college years: decisions about “their Master, their Mate and their Ministry.” Today some (or all) of these big decisions extend into the 20s and even into the early 30s. We college professors won’t be there when you complete these assignments, and the risks are great. We worry about your next decade because we know these assignments are more important than any one you did for us.
We won’t be there which is why we want to hand you off to others. We don’t want you to face these monumental assignments without guidance and mentoring. This is why we are always talking about the local church. It is to the local church we want to hand you off on graduation. You came from your family, dwelled with us for four years, and now we hand you off to another community—the local church. It is in the local church where you can find a new family rather than moving home again. In a local church you will find guidance for your upcoming vocational choices or confirmations. The local church can be the community where you can learn to make friends with people unlike yourself and maybe even find a husband or wife. In a local church you will find families banded together to teach and train each other’s children and teens—including your own. And most of all, we hope this coming decade of searching and settling on your faith will occur in a local church where there will be older men and women like us to guide your growth and commitment.
If you leave this college with a firm faith, then fail to get in a local church, we have failed. The ball will be fumbled half-way through the play. Things have changed since your parents went to college. Big assignments are still ahead of you. The local church can help you finish this play. But, there is a big hitch. The local church you will attend won’t come to your graduation to take the handoff. We’ll hand off yourself to you! Your job will be to put yourself into the hands of a local church. It is up to you. Like your parents handed you off to us for these four years, we now hand you off to the local church. So, please don’t hog the ball. Give yourself to a local faith community who will help you complete the massive life-altering and eternity-affecting assignments of your 20s.
(Copyright 2008, Keith Drury, drurywriting.com/keith)
Keith Drury served The Wesleyan Church headquarters in Christian Education and Youth leadership for 24 years before becoming a professor of religion at Indiana Wesleyan University. He is the author of more than a dozen books of practical spirituality, including Holiness for Ordinary People, Common Ground and Ageless Faith. Keith Drury wrote the Tuesday Column for 17 years (1995-2012), and many articles can be found on his blog “Drury Writing.”
Keith Drury retired from full time teaching in 2012. Keith is married to Sharon and has two adult sons and several grandchildren. He is retired in Florida with Sharon and enjoys cycling.