Christian Education

How to stay a Christian after graduation


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Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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The National Center for Education Statistics expects nearly 3.5 million high school students to graduate in the coming weeks. Beginning will launch these students into the world in a new way. They will start employment, pursue career paths and earn college degrees.

Graduation begins a transition to a new phase of life. It sets off a series of complex events that can be difficult to understand and navigate. We could use an Isaac Newton, who gave us the laws of motion, to formulate the laws of motion that govern graduation.

If he had, the first could have been, “Students in procrastination tend to stay in procrastination unless an external force is applied to them.” Parents and teachers are such an outside force.

A second such law might look like this: “For every graduation action there is an equal and opposite distraction from graduation.” In this year of COVID, the distractions have been plentiful, but, constrained by internal and external forces, more students are expected to graduate than any previous year in US history. United.

At the beginning, the lecturers advise the students on how to move courageously and wisely into adulthood. I would like to offer another type of advice: How to remain a Christian courageously and wisely into adulthood. This kind of advice seems necessary, given current statistics: In their first year out of high school, half of self-identified Christian students do not attend any religious service.

Of course, students are very unlikely to read this advice in a newspaper. Even their parents don’t read newspapers these days. If any of this is found in a senior graduate, I would expect it to be thanks to another of these external forces in a student’s life: a grandparent.

I once asked a group of young Christians to share their advice on how to stay a Christian after high school with graduates. Most were in college. All had completed at least their first year after graduation. One of them urged graduates to “take responsibility for your own spiritual life”. The others agreed. It had become clear to them that no one else would.

Someone once said, “Do not allow yourself to adopt the attitudes and standards of others.” It was good advice. In a study on peer influence, psychologists presented three graphs, each with three lines of different lengths, to groups of 10 teens. The teens were asked to raise their hands when the teacher indicated the longest line on each graph. The teens in each group, minus one, had been secretly ordered to raise their hands when the professor pointed to the second longest line. Seventy-five percent of the time, the lonely teenager, wanting to blend in with the crowd, joined the others in voting badly. Blending in can be fatal to spiritual life.

Another student advised, “You must become your own mother.” Mom, she explained, wants what’s best for you. She tells you to do things that you know you should do but don’t feel like doing, such as studying, going to church, and making time each day to read the Bible and pray. You could almost say that the definition of being an adult is to become your own mother.

Leaving home does not necessarily mean moving away from God. However, for faith to flourish, students will need to establish their own relationship with God. The pastors of their parents or young people will not be enough. Such a relationship is founded on faith and expressed in admiration, respect and unreserved commitment to God.

People whose spiritual life suffers when they step out of parental authority are often the ones who have not established such a relationship. They thought the church was enough. It’s not. Only God is enough.

This is because God created us for himself and, as Saint Augustine said, our hearts cannot rest until they rest in him. This is something that senior graduates – and all of us – need to understand. Family, career, success – these are all good things. But the good things do not replace the best. They can please but cannot satisfy. Only God can do this.

Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater, Michigan. His blog, “The Way Home,” can be found at shaynelooper.com.

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