Thought Factory Podcast #204 || The Future is Further Than it Appears

It seems more and more that students are growing up too fast in our society. But something else has been trending, these kids aren’t growing up. And no matter who you are, parent, youth worker, etc., you need to be aware of this trend.  This trend continues to change our society as we know it.  This episode revolves around students’ thoughts on the future and their plans post-high school.  Is it possible to have an optimistic outlook on something yet worry so much about it?  How do we provide assistance in the long drawn out transition from adolescence to adulthood?

What does the future hold for students? What are students saying they are going to do after they graduate?  Today we’re talking about students and their future.

Prior to 150 years ago older teenagers (16-19 years old):
· Mostly married and parenting
· Working full-time jobs
· In high capacity leadership (leading armies, sailing ships, running farms, etc.)
· Doing “hard” things (building businesses, families, etc).

“Adolescence” is a fairly new term and idea in our American culture. Before adolescence was “created” as a life stage, kids pretty much went immediately from being a child to being an adult. Past generations saw the majority of 16-25-year-olds taking on adult responsibilities and commitments. But since then, things have changed. Older teenagers and young adults are much more hesitant to take on commitments and responsibilities. Why is this?

Dr. Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leaders and author of Generation iY, says,

“The years between 18 and 25 have become a distinct life stage – a strange ‘no man’s land’ between adolescence and adulthood in which young people stall, putting off adult responsibility.”

Look at these trends today that support Elmore’s quote:

Older teenagers and students in their early 20’s:
· 40% of college students return home
· Over 50% of 25-year-olds say “I am not an adult”
· Many young adults have no clear vocational focus
· Many aren’t motivated to achieve financial independence
· Many aren’t ready to accept lifetime commitments (like marriage & parenting).

We wanted to know what students’ plans were after high school in regards to higher education, specifically a Christian education.

Are you planning to go to a Christian college or university?

Yes // 19%
Probably // 30%
Probably Not // 31%
No // 20%

Adults’ response to the same question:

Yes // 8%
Probably // 14%
Probably Not // 58%
No // 20%

About 50% of “church connected” (youth group kids) students are most likely or probably going to a Christian college/university.

About 50% are not or probably not going to a Christian college/university.

Based on these numbers, students are giving a strong consideration for Christian higher education.

A total of 22% of adults think students are interested in Christian higher education while 50% of students are interested.  Christian colleges are something students are interested in and thinking about way more than adults think.

What do you think you’ll do after high school?

Take a “Gap” Year before starting college // 17%
Immediately pursue a 4-year degree // 62%
Go to Community College // 16%
Go straight into the workforce // 5%

Adults’ response to the same question:

Take a “Gap” Year before starting college // 10%
Immediately pursue a 4-year degree // 51%
Go to Community College // 35%
Go straight into the workforce // 4%

The adults think twice as many students are going to Community College than what students are saying.
Only 10% think students are taking a “gap” year while 17% of students say they are planning to.

One of the reasons we think adults don’t think students are interested in Christian higher education is due to the cost.  Costs of going to a Christian institution are not as high as you might think once you factor in scholarships, grants, etc.

At a particular Christian private university, it cost $34,000/year, yet students walk away with around $6,000 more TOTAL in debt for 4 years compared to a median priced stat school that is nearby.

In general, we shouldn’t see the sticker price and say it’s not possible.

Dave Ramsey might be doing damage to Christian higher education because he teaches to do college as cheap as you can, as lean as you can.  That is great advice, a great practice, and general guideline, but we shouldn’t rule out Christian high education simply because of the price.

Do students need to move away from their house?
The advantage of Community College is to be cheap and create less debt.  But there is also a benefit to going away to school.  It allows the students to grow up, learn greater responsibility and creates a different mindset when students are away than staying home with their parents.  Does staying home for college hinder them thinking they are adults?

There are not good statistics for students taking a year off after high school before going to college. It is speculated that less than 1% of a graduating class takes the year off.  It is a small number but still a growing trend.  Seventeen percent of students are wanting/planning on doing this. It’s a growing trend. Why? Students are thinking they will never have the time available again in their life.  Some reasons are they just don’t want the stress of school anymore.

Options for a Gap Year:
· YWAM/ministry “schools”/training
· Backpack Europe/South America
· Serving the Church/Volunteering Other Ways
· Hanging out at Home
· Other Outdoor Adventure/Travel Domestically
·”Trying out” a Career or Language

When you think of the future, what emotion do you mainly experience?

Excitement // 49%
Fear // 20%
Worry // 28%
Apathy // 3%

Adults’ response to the same question:

Excitement // 17%
Fear // 30%
Worry // 47%
Apathy // 6%

Adults were more pessimistic with only 17% believing students were excited about their future.

What kind of outlook do you have on your own future?

Mostly Positive // 64%
Somewhat Positive // 29%
Somewhat Negative // 5%
Mostly Negative // 2%

The results state that 93% of students’ outlook was mostly or somewhat positive.  Yet, almost half, 48% say the emotion they mainly experience when thinking of the future is fear or worry.  We take this to mean that they are optimistic about their future but have some questions and anxiety about it.

1. Teach Them Good Habits
· Processing Truth
· Biblical Worldview
· Facing doubt

In our experience, roughly 50% of students “leave” their faith, but only for a while after they graduate.  It is usually temporary.  The time we have with them should be intentional in developing and teaching good habits centered around these things.  In the age of information and competing worldviews, how much is good and true?

2. Have a thought out checklist for them to know and experience.  
· Rites of passage/Trips
· Traditions
· Content
· Moments/Experiences

What are some things you want them to know while you have them in your ministry?  There is a tendency to only think about a month or semester at a time, but are we thinking through a 4-year plan regarding the content?  From a parent’s perspective, do we provide a checklist of experiences and things they should know, books to read, movies to see, habits to have, etc.?  Have some kind of game plan as a parent.

3. Hand them off well
· Create steps for their next environment (college, home, etc)
· Make it personal
· Train them to handle adversity towards their faith

Are we preparing them to be handed off well to the next stage in life?  Are we giving more guidance to the seniors as a personal point to connect with them?  Are students prepared to defend their faith in that next environment?

Students focus on the future, there are anxiety and fear about the future, they are positive about the future, but still worry about it.  Jesus taught about the future, telling us not to worry about it.

Matthew 6:25-34 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

© 2017, Never The Same