College. It’s where we’re all supposed to go after high school. Throughout junior high and high school, we’re encouraged to look at colleges and universities. Our guidance counselors in high school are supposed to direct us to picking the best colleges. Our grades in high school are to be used to get us into the colleges that we want to get into. And once we graduate from high school, we need to know what we want to major in as soon as we get there so we can begin planning our life long career.
When I was in high school, I was told I needed to take college prep courses to get into college. I’m dyslexic and ADD (something people didn’t fully understand in the ’90s) . To top it off, at the time I had undiagnosed learning disabilities in math and languages. I struggle in college prep classes. I was labeled as non-college material. I even had a math teacher my senior year suggest I not go to college but find a job in construction or something.
Bullwinkle, the loveable moose fro the ’60s wasn’t college material. But a college football scout seeing him toss Rocky the flying squirrel in the air was enough for the to recruit him for their dismal football team. And so Bullwinkle went to Wossamotta U on a full scholarship. He wasn’t forced to decide what he was going to major in, what his life plans were, they just wanted him to win football games.
I went to college. Community college. Ventura College to be exact. I wouldn’t trade those years (all 3 of them at a 2 year college) for the world. I learned so much. I experienced so much. I made amazing friends while there. I then transferred to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI planning on being an English teacher. God had other plans. I wound up at Calvin Seminary and eventually into the ministry.
Two things I reflect on over the years:
1) no one ever told me that I would go on an amazing journey of self discovery and understanding of God. They only told me to get my ducks in a row, get my act together, and figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up.
2) no one ever told me that I’d be paying back these blasted student loans owing up the wazoo for the next 150 years.
Bullwinkle never had to worry about student loans. He never was told to get his ducks in the row. He just had to win football games.
I’m not whining here (okay maybe a little) but we are dealing a spiritual issue as well. We desire our youth, our people, to grow, to learn, to experience life. And yet it costs so much to do so. And when they do go forward, and when they do try to truly serve God in what they’re doing, they get suffocated by the huge amount of debt that was accumulated to get to that point.
One thing I think many churches fail at, is helping these high school graduates and college graduates make the transition from what they knew into the life in the great unknown. In years past, it was thought that if churches placed their kids in the basement with a fun loving leader, gave them orange drink, cookies, and games, and as long as they didn’t do drugs, get knocked up, or arrested, then these kids were okay. It was expected that as soon as they were done with “youth group” they’d then jump right into the life of the church. Or when they returned from college, they’d come back to church.
It ain’t happening. No one knows what to do. There isn’t space in the church for those who don’t go away to college but choose to work. There really isn’t space in the church for those who are back from college but can’t get a job and have student loan debt coming soon.
In the book Hurt, by Chap Clark, it talks about early adolescents, mid adolescents, and late adolescents. Early adolescents is the tween years, mid adolescents in high school. Late adolescents? That goes to about the age of 26. No one’s able to grow up. No one is able to pursue the dreams they were told to pursue when they were in high school.
Wossamotta U may not be the greatest university around. In fact, it’s not even real. Sadly, neither are Rocky and Bullwinkle. Our youth and young adults are. And they are struggling. They are searching for their place in the church. They are searching for their place in the world.
How can we as the church come along side of them and create space for them to be a vital part of the church, to be invested in for the betterment of the kingdom rather than butts to fill ever emptying seats?
How can we create space for a people who have a ever growing amount of debt, a struggle to move away from adolescence in a world that won’t let them grow up? Even referring to 20-30 somethings as “young adults” doesn’t let them fully grow up. How can we treat them like the adults that they are, give them the space to flourish and grow in our churches?
How can we invest in the lives of our high school students, post-high members, our college students, and our college graduates? How can we create a space for them to be integrated into our church and be an active part of the kingdom of God?