Since my children could talk, one of my favorite questions to ask them is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I love this question, mostly because their answers are so entertaining. Their career aspirations have ranged from Mickey Mouse to jet skier( I’m not sure what this is, but that does sound like a job I’d be interested in!). We ask this question of people early and often. It starts out as silly, but somewhere along the way, it turns serious.
Before we know it, our students who wanted to be Mickey Mouse are now wrestling over real life college and career decisions. Over the years, I’ve witnessed many students in their quest to make these decisions. Unfortunately, in these conversations with them, I often hear about great financial opportunities, status, and job security, but very little about the Lord’s plan. As parents, student ministry leaders, and volunteers, we have been given a great opportunity to disciple students regarding their futures. The question is, will we disciple them for the world, or for Christ?
For many students, choosing a college and career will be one of the first big life-decisions they make. I know it was for me, along with being a spiritual marker in my life. As I struggled with my college decision, the Lord taught me how to wrestle, seek Him, and ultimately, have peace in a decision. Here are a few ways my parents discipled me in directing my future:
Teach them of their freedom in Christ.
When it comes to college, opinions can be strong about school sizes, locations, and more. I’ve heard students excitedly come back from a college tour, only to also hear fellow classmates speak of it negatively. We need to encourage students that there’s freedom in Christ in college and career decision making. Scripture never commands specifics in these areas. Therefore, each student needs to be given the opportunity to pursue Christ’s will for their lives, and learn to be okay and confident in that. One student might go to a large public university, while another chooses a small Christian one. We need to encourage that both are wonderful decisions!
Pray with and for them.
These are huge decisions students are making. Now that I’m 30, I feel like 18 is so young to decide such big things. Our students need to be covered in prayer. I believe a beautiful gift we can give them is to allow them to hear the prayers being lifted on their behalf. Yes, we should pray for them as we go throughout your day, but also, let’s allow them to hear the pleas lifted up to Christ for them.
Walk through the process with them.
I toured many colleges in my search for the right one. I didn’t realize it then, but my parents and I made memories that are so sweet now. Parents, though it could be a sacrifice, take time to tour college campuses with them. After tours, talk to them about their thoughts. Ask them questions about campus life, and if they could see themselves there. They might not admit it, but students desperately need the wisdom of their parents now. Since parents have more life experience, they can help students think through things they might not have. Create open lines of communication for questions, concerns, and thoughts throughout the decision making process. If you’re not a parent, ask your students about their process. If a student needs a mother-figure in her life, step into that role in ways you’re able to.
Allow them space to wrestle and process.
I know this might sound contrary to the above point, but I promise it’s not! My parents were vital in my college decision-making process. However, I also spent a lot of time one-on-one with the Lord about it. This is an excellent opportunity for us as disciple-makers to encourage those we disciple to dive deep into God’s Word and prayer. The Lord used my parents to influence my decision, but ultimately, it was one I made with Him. The fact that my parents allowed me time and space to wrestle with the Lord is something I’m so grateful for. As an adult, I can look back on that time and remember the Lord’s faithfulness in it. Now, It serves as a great spiritual marker for me as I walk with the Lord.
Truly, college and career decisions are big ones. It causes many students to wrestle with their identities. Also, it’s a crossroads where students will choose to either live for themselves and this world, or the Lord and his Kingdom. Yes, we need to be wise in decision making when it comes to job security and money, but we can’t allow that to be the focal point of conversations with students. As students tell me of their future large salaries, I often remind them that they can make all the money in the world, but if they’re not doing what the Lord has called them to, they’ll be miserable. In these conversations, we often simply need to ask, “Well, what does the Lord want?”
In Luke 16:13, Jesus tells us we can’t serve both God and money. Friends, let’s use these formative teenage years to disciple our students to serve God. Personally, my life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would when I made that college decision back in 2007. However, the Lord has done immeasurably more as he’s given me grace to walk with him (Eph. 3:20). Let’s use our lives and Scripture to show them how beautiful it is to live a life faithful to our Lord.
Cassie Pattillo is a wife to Jack, and mama to Hunter (5), Isaac (3), and is in the process of adopting from India. Jack is a student pastor, so she loves serving alongside him and investing in teens’ lives. She is passionate about biblical literacy along with writing and teaching about Scripture. She is also a big fan of slow mornings with a cup of coffee, a good book on the beach, and Gamecock football. Connect with Cassie: Blog // Facebook // Instagram