You made it! After spending the last 4 or 5 years going to class, reading books, writing papers, and preparing lab reports, graduation day is upon you. Congratulations are in order—you are now a college graduate! But, as excited as you may be about concluding this academic chapter in your life, there could be some sadness about closing this spiritual chapter in your life—especially if you’ve been a part of an active campus ministry.
Saying goodbye to campus also means leaving behind important friendships, late-night conversations, Bible studies, campus outreaches, spring break mission trips, weekend retreats, and many other positive elements a campus ministry provides students during college. Undoubtedly, campus ministry is a means through which God radically transforms the lives of college students. However, campus ministry should never be an end in itself. A healthy campus ministry experience should not serve as some type of Christian utopia to be preserved for future nostalgia, simply longing for days gone by. Instead, it is a disciple-making training ground, laying the missional foundation for the rest of your life.
So, as you graduate college, take what you’ve learned into “the real world,” living as a missionary wherever you go. To help, here are five marks of a disciple-making graduate.
- Own your faith. After years of Bible study, mentoring, and investment, keep pursuing Jesus by practicing the spiritual disciplines and living a holy life.
- Commit to your church. If you’re moving away, make identifying a local church a top priority in deciding where to live. Look intentionally for a place where you can grow but also where you can serve. Missionally speaking, look for newer church plants where your presence and gifts might be utilized to the utmost. If you’re staying local, go deeper in fellowship with your church family and identify areas of leadership and service you might work towards.
- Sacrifice your resources. Many of you have already been sacrificing your time and money in significant ways while in college. But, full-time employment brings newfound resources. Resist the selfish allure of money. Live counter-culturally. Don’t buy the expensive car or rent the most expensive apartment just because you can. Instead, invest larger amounts of money in your local church while also giving back to the campus ministry that invested in you while you were a student.
- Leverage your life. Whether you are single or recently married, begin your “adult” life investing your life in other people. Guard against isolating yourself in your own world (or in your own marriage, if married). Make other people a priority in your life by inviting them into yours. This includes your neighbors, the lost, younger believers, other couples, mentors, etc. Share meals, enjoy game-nights, host Bible studies, and mentor others for the sake of the gospel. The patterns you set now will travel with you for life—whether positively or negatively.
- Remember your training. A good campus ministry seeks to lead students to the gospel and train them to invest the gospel into others. But, what happens when those students graduate? You will be tempted to “move on” to other responsibilities of life—like going to work, paying bills, and raising a family. Those things are important; and you should do them well. But, don’t forget your training. Although disciple-making looks different in different seasons of life, Jesus’ command transcends life-stages and marital statuses. So, don’t forget what’s been entrusted to you—keep making disciples!
Now, put on the robe, walk across the stage, hang up the diploma, cash the graduation checks, and enter your mission field.
Chris James serves as Boston Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England where he serves as Pastor of Mill City Church & Christian Student Fellowship, a multi-site ministry reaching students at UMASS Lowell. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).