05/06/2013 03:58 pm ET Updated Jul 06, 2013

Vocation Meets Graduation: 7 Questions for College Seniors

For college seniors, May means graduation, and it's only natural to want to ask graduates the question on all our minds: So ... what's next?

My work with the theological notion of vocation, and conversations with students themselves, has me pondering better questions to ask this graduation season. I teach at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where the theme of our core curriculum is about becoming responsibly engaged in the world.

As commencement weekend nears, I'm considering a different set of questions than simply, "What are your plans after graduation?" I'm seeking kinder -- even more faithful -- alternatives.

The problem with asking the usual questions to graduates is that they buy into the notion that the sole measure of a college degree is its ability to get the degree-holder a job. Similarly, such questions reinforce the dangerous understanding that we are first and foremost identified by our job, not how we do it, who it helps, or to what extent our work contributes to others' welfare.

I'm glad the vast majority of my students will be employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation -- that is very important. But mere work or grad school misses the point. We've failed in educating our students well if they seek simply a job. Instead, as educators, we live out our vocations when we teach our students to, with the support of peers and mentors, match their passions with the needs of the world.

So here are some questions to ask those graduating college seniors in your life:
  • What have you discovered about yourself in college?
  • How do you hope to live after college?
  • What passions do you hope to pursue after graduation?
  • How have you sensed God's movement in your life?
  • What have you learned from any significant missteps during college?
  • How will you continue to grow in love?
  • What does the world need from you?

A version of this post appeared at the author's blog, A Wee Blether.