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Open Letter to My Former Students

Like all my friends in youth ministry, I have acquired a growing list of graduates that now scatter the globe. Some are freshmen in college this year, some are married and have cool jobs, and most are kind of in an in-between state. We bump into each other from time-to-time, we comment on one another’s life on Facebook, and I hope they pray for me as I have committed to praying for them. This post is for them.

Dear former students:

Dr. Seuss was right! Oh, the places you have gone and the things you have done. Some of you I’ve kept up with pretty closely while most I only get to see little snippets of when you come to town or with what you post on Facebook.

I just wanted to publicly say some things to you that you need to hear. Life has a way of transforming your dreams into a lame reality, and I thought it might be valuable to get a third-party perspective on things.

Let’s take one more trip up the mountain and dream about what God wants for you.

The world is yours for the taking

Seriously, have you looked at your peer group? Life has dealt you a hand that you can easily take advantage of! It’s shocking to me that tomorrow’s influencers are impressed when snippets of their lives appear on the Fail Blog or Texts from Last Night.

Never confuse failure for success, no matter how popular it may seem. God has so much more for you in mind.

If you can rise above that stupidity and soak in as much education and experience as you can in the next 2-3 years, you will be head and shoulders above the idiots who walked across the stage with you in high school.

IQ & money & SAT & GPA mean jack squat right now. It’s all about hard work. Outwork your peer group, and you will succeed.

Tomorrow’s employers are watching what you are doing today. They want to know…were you one of those knuckleheads we laughed at on Fail Blog? When you explain to them that you were too busy taking care of your classes and holding down a job to pay for college…the doors of opportunity will swing open.

Take every class seriously. You are paying for it (and will pay for it for the next 10 years), so force your professors to give you their very best. If they don’t perform at their best, challenge them to step it up privately. Wrestle through the temptation to blow off classes. Sit in the front 2 rows. Don’t open up your laptop. Take notes the old-fashioned way. Do your reading. Turn stuff in.

Outwork everyone.

Take every job opportunity seriously. I don’t care if you are making sandwiches at Subway or wiping snot from a kid’s nose at daycare. Do it for the glory of God. This isn’t a great job market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do great at your job. Remember, he who is faithful with the small things…

Outwork everyone.

This stage of life isn’t about friends. It might feel like it should be, but that’s not true. People going places aren’t worried about such things. Look around at your classes today. Your job is to figure out how to rise above all of the people in that room. You don’t have to be smarter than them or get better grades than them…you just have to out position them.

No one expects anything from your generation. Rise above that, and the world is yours.

Hard work, hard work, hard work. This is the path to success.

No one is going to hook you up so hook yourself up.

Grunt out this 5-6 years of your life, act like an adult as soon as possible, and you will reap the rewards for decades to come.

The church desperately needs you

I did my best to teach the Word of God to you plainly. Some of you absorbed it and took it seriously; some did not. That’s OK, as you picked up more than you think you did.

Find a local church, get involved, and help them reach their community. It can be the church you grew up attending. It can be a new church. Really, just go to church.

Trust your instincts on what a healthy church is. It will feel right. It doesn’t have to be big or flashy. It doesn’t have to have a killer program you love or a hot musician. You don’t have to feel comfortable with everything they do, and you don’t have to think it’s perfect. My experience is that I feel most negative about a church when I just go and am not involved or giving money. I guarantee you that if you become part of a church’s ministries and give what you can, you will feel like you fit in.

Your church just has to love Jesus, love God’s Word, and have a stupid belief that the Gospel can change lives.

At the same time, I taught you to think critically about the world around you. This is the most valuable skill needed in the church today. There are enough Christians who are satisfied with reaching a small percentage of the community. Lead bravely wherever you get involved. Remind those at church what the Bible actually says. Hold them to it. The Book of Acts is possible today!

I pray that you keep believing that every person in your area needs to know Jesus and not to accept 10% as the best you can do. I hope you see things that need to be fixed in this world and step into the responsibility to right wrongs.

Don’t just be consumers of the Word of God. Be doers.

Move out as soon as possible

There is something about your parents’ generation that wants to hold onto you and baby you as long as possible. Resist that temptation.

I know it’s nice to have someone take care of you. And I know that it’s nice to have someone do your laundry.

Get out. It’s not helping.

The fastest way to grow up is to leave the nest. I’m not saying you need to hate your parents or that you aren’t supposed to see them ever again. But I am saying that if you are over 18, the best biggest step you can make to being accepted as a “real adult” is to get out.

The fastest way for you to get dependent is to stop taking their money. Find some people and share an apartment. Pay your own bills. Eat your own Ramen if you have to. You aren’t going to starve…you’re going to get hungry to grow up!

I’m still here for you

If you need someone to talk to, I am now and hope to always be here to listen and offer advice. At the very least, know that I continue to pray for you.

I expect great things from you. As I said when you were in middle and high school– I have a fundamental belief in your generation.

Be better than my generation. Now. Now. Now.

– Adam

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amclane@churchleaders.com'
Adam McLane has served as a full-time or volunteer youth worker since 1996. A resident of San Diego, Adam now manages the online presence for Youth Specialties. Adam blogs about all sorts of technology, missions, and church leadership topics at www.AdamMcLane.com