the shape of leadership

Helping Young Adults Discover God’s Will

Seven ways to offer guidance

Kent Ingle on December 3, 2021

People often ask children what they want to be when they grow up. Many of us changed our answers several times before we reached adulthood. And in college, some of us reconsidered our plans again.

The question of what we want to be doesn’t go away when we reach adulthood. Conversations with new acquaintances frequently revolve around what we do for a living. In today’s culture, careers define individuals.

In a recent survey from Barna Group, 67% of U.S. adult respondents agreed that there was “one best-fit job” waiting for them. Practicing Christians were even more likely to believe this, with 75% holding out hope for the ideal position.

Searching for the right career fit can be unsettling at times, especially for young adults. Church communities, leaders, and mentors can be pivotal in helping young adults find their unique purpose in life.

Here are seven ways to guide young people on their journey toward discovering God’s will and vocational calling:

1. Help them identify their talents, gifts and passions. Talents and interests can help point to God’s design and plan for a person’s life. Using assessments and asking others for input and guidance can help young adults understand their strengths and narrow down what God is calling them to do.

2. Remind them who they are in Christ. As young adults pursue their calling, help them keep their identity as Christ followers in focus. They should view themselves as God sees them — as His children (John 1:12); fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); and created in His image (Genesis 1:27).

There will be momentary trials and disappointments, of course. When young people feel discouraged and want to give in, it’s critical they remember God still has a plan.

3. Help them find a local church. As a university president, I see firsthand the fruits of students getting connected, and staying connected, to a local church after they leave home. Being a part of a church gives students a chance to build community with people of faith from all stages of life. It deepens their walk with God and teaches them about His heart for serving others.

When young people
feel discouraged and want to give in, it’s critical they remember God still has a plan.

Through service, discipleship, and fellowship, students can begin to understand how God wants to use their gifts for His kingdom (1 Corinthians 12:12–21). When young people move away to attend college or take a new job, help them locate Bible-believing churches in their new communities.

4. Disciple them in the Word. In a world of competing messages, young adults need a solid Bible foundation. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Lord responded using Scripture (Matthew 4:1–11). This is an example we all should follow.

Just knowing Scripture verses is not enough, however. Young adults need to understand the context and meaning of those verses. Teach them how to study, interpret, and apply the Bible to their lives. There is no greater guide for discovering God’s will.

5. Encourage them to pray in the Spirit. The powerful thing about Pentecostal prayer is that if we don’t know what words to pray, the Holy Spirit can intercede for us. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

The Holy Spirit can help guide the decisions of young adults and give them peace about the direction they should take. Praying in the Spirit should become a consistent part of their lives as young people seek and walk in God’s will.

6. Advise them to seek counsel from trusted Christian mentors. Asking advice from people they trust can give young adults valuable insight and may even confirm what they already sense from God. However, such advice shouldn’t always determine a final decision.

There have been moments when I felt God leading in a new direction and someone close to me didn’t think it was the right decision. Even though God was already directing me, I was grateful for the input. It helped me realize the weight of my decision and caused me to seek God and receive assurance from Him. Proverbs 20:18 says, “Plans are established by seeking advice.”

7. Assure them they don’t have to know everything right now. Discovering God’s will requires patience. It may also require courage as young adults begin to step into something unfamiliar and new. Feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are normal.

The Holy Spirit can offer peace, reassurance and strength in such times (John 14:27). When their calling requires a leap of faith, young people can trust Jesus to be with them. If God is leading the way, they should never be afraid to pursue something that might seem out of reach. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

God has a plan for each young person’s life. This can certainly include a “best-fit” job. The journey may not be what they anticipate, but young adults will begin to discover their unique purpose in life as they remain faithful to God and live in obedience to Him.

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