As graduations occur in different ways across the United States (and beyond) during our worldwide pandemic, high schools and colleges have sought new ways to honor the students who have worked hard to achieve this milestone along their life journey. As car parades through town, single photo-ops occur next to lawn signs, and the blending of videos of speakers and diploma hand-offs are recorded to share with family and friends many are asking, “What can I give a graduate this year when we can’t be together?” I have a suggestion.

Belovedness: Finding God (and Self) on Campus is a terrific resource that any high school graduate who will be going to college (or taking a gap year). This newly released book, edited by two college chaplains (James Franklin and Becky Zartman), is a collaboration of college chaplains from a variety of denominational perspectives (Episcopal, Presbyterian, American Baptist and Progressive National Baptist Convention, and United Church of Christ) from across the country. It is a tool to help young people navigate questions of life and faith in the world of high-pressure college campuses. And I would also submit that the issues are not just found on the quad. Shannon Kelly, Director of the Department of Faith Formation and Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries, The Episcopal Church shares:

Sharing wisdom, experience, and passion, chaplains from across the church invite us to consider how we are to live into our belatedness. In a rapidly changing world, in a world full of brokenness and messages of ‘not enough’ we are invited to consider how we are each more than enough because that is how God made us and that is how God loves us. Shannon Kelly, Director of the Department of Faith Formation and Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries, The Episcopal Church.

By belovedness, the authors call an understanding of one’s true worth as a child of God – freedom. Freedom to become fully yourself, but also freedom to become wholly God’s. College is a time for making decisions about who you are and who you want to be in the world and how you want to live in the world. It is a time and place where individuals get to choose. Are they going to choose to live into their belovedness and change the world? I believe this book will help high school grads and college students make the choices that will keep them rooted in their self while engaging fully in college, knowing that they are a beloved, child of God.

Each chapter is full of wisdom:

  • Belovedness by James Franklin (Wake Forest University, )
  • Making Choices by Stacy Alan (Brent House, University of Chicago)
  • Success and Failure by Brandon Harris (Georgetown University)
  • Relationships by Olivia Lane (formerly at Georgetown University)
  • Worship by Jonathan Melton (formerly at St. Francis House, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • God Made the Rainbow by Adrienne Koch (formerly Duke University)
  • Sex by Samantha Clare (University of Arkansas at Fayetteville)
  • Partying by Ben Adams (formerly University of Chicago)
  • Mental Health by David Finnegan-Hosey (Barton College, formerly Georgetown University, American University, and University of Hawai’i Manoa)
  • Holy Sh*t by Becky Zartman (formerly Georgetown University)

Appendices also offer tools: How to find a campus ministry (that is not “Campus Crusade for Christ”), The Observio (a tool for spiritual practice), and a small group discussion guide for students to have with one another. The guide could also be used by youth leaders of high school students, or any one who oversees young adult ministry in a variety of settings.

Touching on many of the topics that young adults have to grapple with and inviting us to go deeper, this book is a must-have for anyone in ministry with young adults.

Young people do not need to leave God at home once they leave the nest. They do need guidance from respected adults who are not their parents. Many may not consider seeking out or exploring a faith-based campus community. But be assured there are many “fundamental” campus ministries or dorm buddies who will seek them out, asking if they have “been saved.” Put this toolbox in their hands to help them discover that they are free to be who they already are and show how there are others on their college campus who are followers of Christ that understand the God is an open, affirming, and loving God.

Adapted from “Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People” by Jenifer Gamber and Sharon Ely Pearson

Header photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash.

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