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Words of Wisdom for Those Graduating High School and Beyond

Words of Wisdom

God has a plan. He will pursue you. He will use you mightily—just trust Him.

A while back, McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia tweeted a question out to several evangelical leaders in preparation for an upcoming weekend youth retreat. Their request: words of wisdom to share with seniors in high school as they prepare to navigate the challenges of life and faith in the years to come.

You can read the tweets and responses here.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about this. This year, I had the privilege of speaking at the graduation ceremony for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and will speak at Timothy Christian High School’s graduation on Friday. So, I wanted to update this article, which I shared years ago on my blog, and post it here.

Graduation at any level is an important time of new beginnings and excitement. But high school graduates face the unique transition into autonomy and self-discovery. What can we say to encourage and guide our 2022 graduates? I’ve been thinking about that as I prepare my commencement speech for this weekend. 

It’s an important question. We’ve all heard start about student dropouts. Some students who found themselves eager to attend youth group and spend time in scripture during high school head to college and later find these disciplines hard to maintain. They’re isolated from their family—in many cases, the bedrock of their faith—and often attend secular universities where Christian communities are few and far between. Navigating a new schedule, environment, and community makes it easy for faith to get lost in the shuffle. 

There are other students who find that their faith has not yet been equipped to withstand challenges, questions, new ideas, or diversity. So instead of examining and strengthening their beliefs to reconcile its deficiencies, they choose to let it go. 

I thought back to a few years ago when McClean Presbyterian Church tagged several of us in the tweet and received many good responses. My answer is at the end of the article, but let’s take a look at some of the best advice offered in response to their bold question:

Tim Keller

Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Now he leads Redeemer City to City, which has since launched 250 churches in 75 global cities. His books—The Reason for GodThe Prodigal God, and Generous Justice, and others—have been enjoyed by millions. Much of his work focuses on contextualizing and recognizing the relevance of our faith and the Bible in our daily lives. 

In his response, Keller advises students to “be resilient.” He points out that college is a place of discovery—a time to deal with life’s biggest questions of “identity, purpose and choice.” Going to college means leaving behind the familiar comforts of family, friends, church that youngsters rely on for support during times of trial and weakness. According to Keller, this transition requires students to open up the floodgates and allow their minds to venture into dangerous territory asking things like “Who am I?” and “What’s the point of everything?”

As difficult as these questions might be, he advises that students not ask them in a vacuum but instead seek answers in a community.” A good faith community and close Christian friends provide support, love, and wisdom when we struggle for answers. 

Beth Moore

Beth Moore is an author, speaker, and the founder of Living Proof Ministries, an organization that aims to encourage women in their spiritual journeys as they come to know Christ through the study of his word. In addition to her in depth study of scripture, she is also known as an advocate for abuse survivors and a voice of accountability and justice within the church.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and leads the Stetzer ChurchLeaders podcast. Ed is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.