How a Yes Culture Prepares College Seniors for Their Calling
A “yes” culture releases people to discover their gifts and live out their calling in the world. “At my church,” says college grad specialist Erica Young Reitz, “this isn’t just a tagline—it’s really happening.” In our series What My Church Does Well, Erica inspires love for young professionals.
What kind of church …
… purchases a mobile home in a trailer park so that lay members can live in it and love their neighbors?
… gives away thousands of dollars in $100, $50, and $20 bills during weekend services for a “Kingdom Assignment” based on the parable of the talents?
… invests countless resources into the lives of college students, including graduating seniors who may be the least likely to give back during their remaining time in a congregation?
Answer: A church with a “yes” culture.
My church has a “yes” culture. At Calvary, we say yes. A lot. We’d rather try something and fail than sit on our hands. We value the gospel in action, and our yes culture is often the catalyst.
I also love that we say yes to people trying out their gifts—in big and small ways. Have an idea for a new ministry? Want to improve an existing program? See a need in the community you think you/we could meet? “Go for it!” Certainly we throw new ideas against the backdrop of our vision and values to make sure they stick, but I love that that there’s little “red tape” when it comes to kingdom good. We make it easy for people to serve.
A yes culture releases people to discover their gifts and live out their calling in the world. At Calvary, this isn’t just a tagline—it’s really happening. I know because I discovered my own calling here, and now I get to help college students find theirs.
Exiting the Campus, Entering a Career
About ten years ago, a fellow church member approached me with a need. He had identified a crucial gap related to a group of people often overlooked in college ministries and in churches with large student populations: graduating seniors. As we opened our doors to students each Sunday morning, we started to ask, How are we sending them out well? How are we preparing them to transition—to successfully “exit” university life and enter the world of work?
These questions birthed Senior EXIT, a one-year experience that prepares graduating seniors for the transition into the next phase of life. Because Calvary said yes to our crazy idea and then put resources behind it and blessed our efforts, Senior EXIT has been able to serve hundreds of seniors over the last decade, equipping them to flourish in life after college.
Here’s what it looks like. Through monthly workshops that start in September, we address the top issues recent graduates face: finding a church and community, managing money, making biblical decisions, and integrating faith and work. We do our best to pack our students’ bags with both the perspective and practical tools they will need to navigate the changes ahead. We want them to thrive. We also aim to connect them to “mentors by major,” matching our seniors with members of the congregation who can offer realistic previews—grounded in a Christian perspective—of what it’s like to work in a particular field.
A Church Bearing Fruit in the Workplace
I love receiving positive feedback from our current Senior EXIT students. But the true reward is hearing success stories from alumni—stories about how their time with us shaped their approach to the world. Here are three alums who are doing incredible work as they pursue their high callings:
Tyler is an assistant program director who ministers to urban youth and teens in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. His decision to move there, of all places, was shaped by an understanding that we all have “this amazing set of gifts that God gives us to serve the world.” He credits his time at Calvary for helping him discern how he has been uniquely created and called to do his current work, his “dream job.”
Sarah continues to pursue faithfulness in her work as an architectural engineer, knowing that “engineers and architects … live out their faith through their designs, … bringing glory to God … ” When asked about her daily job at a mid-sized firm, she said, “God can use me in my work as an engineer.” She also plans to serve with Engineering Ministries International in Kenya this summer where she will help design a facility expansion for an orphanage camp.
Jenna, an engineer for a medical device company, thanks Senior EXIT for teaching her practical life skills (like decision-making and budgeting) as well as for helping her “understand God’s view of work and how faith comes into the workplace.” She does her best to faithfully manage projects, pursuing integrity in every aspect. This has garnered her influence in her workplace and has led to a co-worker coming to church.
As Calvary continues to say yes to equipping graduating seniors to live out their calling, we say yes to something that extends far beyond our church walls: a yes to the next generation and a yes to the local church at Her best. When a church readies and releases people to use their gifts in the world, it’s something to celebrate. I love that Calvary does this well and that I get to be a part of it.
God’s work doesn’t end with our good-byes to the seniors. By commissioning them each year, we experience the joy of knowing they go forth in service to others—as they offer their gifts to a new body of believers in places like Coatesville, and as they seek to be the church in the world!