Jay Neuharth works with Nav20s in the Chicago area helping young adults make the transition to a life that’s quite different from what they’ve known before. Many of the individuals with whom he works come from a collegiate lifestyle.
“The college experience,” says Jay, “is unique. It’s a world where everything revolves around the student. Campuses do a lot to make the college experience easy for students. It’s a controlled environment. But that changes when students leave the campus.”
One individual with whom Jay works described the situation this way: “When you step off the campus, you’re nobody!” He wasn’t being maudlin. He was simply describing how things change when students move from an environment where everything revolves around them, to a situation in which they have to take all of the initiative.
“When young people leave the campus,” explains Jay, “there is often a loss of identity. And they’re often lonely. It’s up to them to find a job, to take care of all their needs, to find community. And it’s up to them to decide if they are going to invest their lives in the lives of others.”
What does that look like for this current generation of young adults coming out of college—or even those who have chosen not to attend college? How does one reach this new generation?
“This group tends to move around a lot,” says Jay. “It’s not automatic that they’ll find the job they’re looking for right away. They may have to move to find the job they want.” But this is also a generation that’s very comfortable with technology. “Individuals in this age group are quite comfortable discipling and being discipled—even in another state—via Skype, social media, and texting,” Jay adds.
But Jay cautions that it’s a mistake to assume this ease of using technology means that digital relationships are all that’s important to people in their 20s. “These young adults still long for personal, face-to-face relationships,” he says. “And they are quite open to cross-generational mentoring from older believers.”
That mentoring—passing on knowledge, truth, character, and skills to the next generation—is something that’s emphasized in the 20s internship program. “We mentor young adults who come to us for discipleship training,” explains Jay, “but we also make sure that they are discipling someone else—personally passing on the things that they’re learning. It’s built into the program.”
Two years ago Jay directed a seminar for college seniors, designed to help them make the transition from college life to life in the working world. Matt, an intern who came to Chicago from the University of Illinois assisted him. “This year,” says Jay, “Matt directed the seminar and I assisted him!”
It’s just one step in how someone stepping off campus as a “nobody” learns to be somebody who is able to pass on truth, wisdom, and skills to the next generation.