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How to help students ask—and answer—big questions about the future

Jeff Reep works to help students make the right decisions for their futures, even if the process takes a while.

“It’s always better to get it right than to get it fast,” the director of career services tells students at Cedarville University, a Christian school in Ohio. Indeed, many collegians report not getting it right on their first attempt. Reep points to a statistic from leadership expert Tim Elmore that found 40% of college graduates wish they had chosen a different major.

It’s easy to see how it happens to so many people, Reep said. Well-meaning people at church or in the community start asking a student in high school where they’re planning to go to college and what they’ve chosen as a major. The response—business, education, etc.—often isn’t based on how God is leading, or how the student is wired. Instead, it becomes something that’s easy to repeat. All of a sudden, Reep said, the student is a junior in college who’s never really struggled with what they’ll do with their degree once they’ve earned it.

Am I really surrendered to God? Is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him?

That trajectory puts students on the fast track to joining the majority of Americans who aren’t happy in their work, Reep said. The number of satisfied workers inproved slightly over the last decade, according to the Conference Board’s annual job satisfaction survey. Still, just over half of the population say they don’t like their job.

“So many times, people look at a lifestyle and don’t consider a life work,” Reep said. A young person might aspire to live in a certain neighborhood or achieve a certain level of prestige, for example, but they don’t consider what kind of work is actually required of a particular vocation.

At Cedarville, Reep’s team helps students in three basic areas: exploration, which includes counseling about careers, internships, and majors; navigational skills, or developing resumés, cover letters, and other tools needed in a job search; and networking opportunities with faculty and employers who can help them as they investigate their options. Everything Reep’s team does is designed to help students answer big questions: Who am I? And where does God want me to be?

When he talks with students, Reep tells them he knows what God wants them to do, which is a pretty major assertion that he doesn’t take lightly. But there are three things he says he feels sure the Lord is calling them to do as they think about the future. The three steps can be helpful to pastors and church leaders as they help students in their congregations navigate the same issues:

1. Pray about it. And pray specifically, Reep advises. Ask God to put people on your mind who you should talk to about a potential career direction. Who can help you as you’re thinking through these things, or who can refer you to someone else who can help?

2. Ask for advice. Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety in a multitude of counselors. Reep urges students to heed Scripture’s encouragement to seek out wise advisors. And not just for job or internship opportunities. People are honored when you ask for career advice based on their experience, he said. And they may be able to point students to opportunities they haven’t yet considered.

3. Delight yourself in the Lord. The counsel of Psalm 37:4 is especially comforting for students seeking God’s will for their future. If a student can say they’re delighting in the Lord, that he’s their treasure, their satisfaction, and their identity, Reep said, then the next question is: What do you desire to do?

“If there is something that you desire to do, put it out there,” he advises. “And then start moving toward it.” And stay open to how God might continue to shape that desire.

The differences between “vocation” and “career” and “calling” can be confusing for students trying to make sense of their options. But Reep says every Christian is in full-time ministry. “Whether it is [as] a pharmacist or at a state university or on the mission field. And God is the one that provides for each of those people.” Calling goes back to “am I really, totally surrendered to him, am I a living sacrifice for him, is my treasure, satisfaction, and identity in him,” Reep said. “Then, out of that, what I do is my service, my calling.”

-Meredith Flynn

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

The newest piece of equipment in Three Rivers Association’s disaster relief trailer came from an unlikely source: 10-year-old Lily Eddington.

The Shorewood fifth grader wanted to help the association purchase a new, bigger chainsaw for the team to use after disasters like the November tornadoes that affected many communities across Illinois. She wrote a story that has garnered just over $2,000 in donations, enough to purchase the new chainsaw, another smaller saw, and other needed safety equipment.

Lily has the inside track to knowing about such a specific need – her grandfather is Dan Eddington, Three Rivers’ director of missions. “She knew through my father that they needed help raising money for that,” said Lily’s dad, Matt. “And she came up with the idea of writing a story, and he took the idea and kind of ran with it. And it worked out really well.”

Her grandfather helped Lily publish the story in booklet form, with her own illustrations. The story centers on a family trapped in their home after a tornado. Sisters Megan and Brianna take shelter in the basement with their parents (plus their cat and hamster), but a large tree keeps them trapped inside after the storm passes.

“Then they heard a truck pull up,” Lily wrote. “On the side of the trailer they saw the words, ‘Three Rivers Baptist Association Disaster Relief.’

“Suddenly they heard, ‘Come on guys, we need to get this tree off the house.’”

Read the full story at IBSA.org.

Illinois workers join typhoon response
A team of Illinois volunteers is hard at work in the Philippines this week, helping rebuild a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan last fall. The Disaster Relief leaders also are repairing rain water collection sites on Gibitngil Island, where there is no natural water source. The team starts each day with a boat ride from Cebu Island, where they’re staying, to Gibitngil. “People in small shack houses greet us all along the way and some have even posted signs on their homes thanking our team for helping to rebuild their school,” said Rex Alexander, state director of Disaster Relief for the Illinois Baptist State Association. Go to IBSA’s Facebook page for updates on the team’s work.

Barna: Majority of Christians unclear on calling
Less than half (40%) of practicing Christians have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives, according to the Barna Group. And 48% of Christian Millenials (generally thought of as those born in the 80s and 90s) say they believe God is calling them to different work. That lack of clarity is the foundation for Barna’s three vocational trends for 2014.

Blog post puts church attendance under the microscope
Author Donald Miller blogged recently that he doesn’t attend church often. “…I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him,” wrote Miller, who has chronicled his faith journey in “Blue Like Jazz” and several other books. “So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.” Miller added that he experiences intimacy with God through his work.

Southern Baptist professor and blogger Denny Burk was one of many who responded to Miller’s post, calling his decision “a recipe for spiritual suicide.” Miller responded, and Burk has posted the exchange on his blog.

Christianity Today lists 8 Olympians to watch
Check out CT’s list of Christian athletes competing in Sochi. “We don’t root for them because they’re on ‘Team Jesus,'” writes Laura Leonard, “but all the same it’s nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world’s biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.”