What's After High School... ?
Like many people, I graduated high school.
It is common for students to begin planning for what’s after high school by considering being gainfully employed; enlisting in the military; or enrolling in trade school, college, or university.
The reality is that what people choose to do after high school graduation continues to rapidly change.
Let’s be honest - it had been shifting for years before the pandemic, and everything about post-high school life is different today. Nothing is really the same - and nothing is returning to the way it was.
The employment field and workforce are altogether different from hybrid and remote work. Enlisting has its own unique set of pros and cons. Tradespeople are desperately needed and are often under-resourced and ignored. And there seem to be more ways to pursue a college degree than species of fish in the Puget Sound.
This is why I was so intrigued when the conversation I had a few weeks ago implied that college was a better or preferred choice over being gainfully employed or enlisting.
Here are 3 reasons it might be so easy for us to assume college education is a student’s next step after graduation and what to do about it.
1. Your friend group all went to college after high school.
Birds of a feather flock together.
It’s human nature. If everyone around you chose to enroll after high school, that has become your norm. It’s the unspoken standard that you expect from others. And, when people do not align with your idea of “normal,” they are the opposite - abnormal. Afterall, there is safety in numbers.
The challenge is that we can unknowingly make unhelpful (and inappropriate) judgments about people based on their decisions and how they align with our idea of “normal.”
Does that mean you’re wrong? No. It just means that your expectation about life after high school has been shaped by the people around you. It’s not good or bad - but it is something to be mindful of when others share their life decisions with you.
2. You went to college after high school.
Perhaps you went to college right after high school. It might have been the best experience of your life. Your expertise and degree have served you well.
It’s easy to assume if it was the right choice for you, it’s the right choice for others, too.
We must acknowledge that each person is unique - made in the image of God with specific gifts, talents, and skills. Therefore, while I do not believe that each person is specifically “called” to a pigeonhole and if they aren’t there, they are “outside of God’s will,” - I do believe that each person is called to use what God has given them to love people, care for creation, and be a blessing to the world.
So, while that may have looked like college to you - for others, it might look like experiencing boot camp, fixing sprockets on a Navy ship, welcoming you at your favorite restaurant, baking bread, butchering meat, caring for children, or advocating for human rights.
While it is normal to be shaped by our experiences, it is important to be mindful that God led you to use your gifts, talents, and skills by way of a college classroom. At the same time, your experience does not mean God is leading everybody down that same path.
3. You didn’t go to college right after high school and wish you did.
Regret is a powerful negative emotion.
Perhaps you think your life would have been different if you had enrolled or completed college. You would have met another partner or spouse. You would have made more money. You would have had other opportunities.
And because you regret not enrolling or completing college, you don’t want other people to repeat your past action.
Regret is closely related to guilt and shame, which have the incredible potential to control and manipulate other people.
If you are experiencing guilt, shame, or regret over a past choice, such as not going to college right after high school and wishing you did, there are excellent resources for you to own it, call it what it is, and work through it.
The bottom line is this: the prison of regret has an open door for you to pull other people in with you or run out the door leaving it behind while remembering your experience in captivity.
What would it look like if heading out to boot camp, securing full-time employment, or focusing on trade were equally celebrated as enrolling at a college or university?
I think there would be a lot of lifting graduates up and celebrating them for who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they wish to do - whatever that might be at this moment in time.
Let’s be honest - how many of us really knew what we wanted to do when we were 18 years old? Some of us are still trying to figure that out at 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old.
What I’m trying to say is that it is OK to not have our life’s plan mapped out two decades into life. It is OK to just take the next step and do something and move forward.
Sometimes honor and respect looks like celebrating people when we don’t necessarily align with their choices. Celebration and agreement are not mutually exclusive.
When I found myself in a conversation where I felt the student was being judged by another adult for choosing to work full-time and not pursue college classes, I said, “That’s awesome! I’m proud of you. Where do you work so that I can visit you sometime?”.
That kind of response takes the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to sound like Jesus when we find ourselves stuck in making assumptions about other people, letting our pride compare other people to ourselves, and in the prison of our regret, guilt, and shame. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves in humility. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
Perhaps the best response to all of our grads who are gainfully employed, enlisting, enrolling, or already enrolled is this: we celebrate you for who you are and who you are becoming! We love you! Tell me more about what’s next for you. When can I see you next to encourage you in your next chapter of God’s crazy awesome story called life?
May 17th, 2023
This summer, we will listen to and follow Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew.
Here’s a sneak peek at our three upcoming message series.
We kick off our summer in June with Jesus teaching us His way of authority, mercy, and compassion we find in Matthew 9 and 10. Make plans to be sent to live The Forgotten Ways of Jesus on June 25.
We will then move into July with some Story Time with Jesus. Each week, we will discover real-life principles from the stories Matthew records Jesus telling about seeds, weeds, and hidden treasures in Matthew 13.
We will wrap up summer by spending time with Jesus as he feeds people, walks on water, heals a woman, and directly asks us, “Who do you say I am.” I pray we are moved to respond, “This is Jesus.”
Alright - time to pull the curtain back on the fall a little bit…
In January 2023, 22 people spent 10 weeks connecting with God, the church, and their purpose. For those who were exploring faith, their experience revealed who God is and how to live more like Jesus. For believers, it refocused their relationship with God and ignited a new passion to connect and serve.
As a result, today, 15 out of 22 are in a Life Group (9 of them for the first time!). That’s pretty impressive.
But don’t take my word for it… one person shared: “I loved the class and learning everyone’s story. It taught me to listen more, speak less, ask questions, and think about what Jesus is doing in each person’s life”.
True spiritual growth. Real discipleship.
That’s why I want each of us to get Rooted this fall.
Why? Because loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus is about being Rooted in Jesus.
So, kids, youth, and adults… get ready. It will be an inclusive experience for anybody and everybody.
I can’t wait to share more in August.
Celebration of Generosity
I don't believe anyone believes that generosity is a bad thing.
To be honest, most people (I believe) want to be generous and grow in their generosity.
Sometimes, it's just down right difficult to live generously. Whether it's a busy schedule (time), competing priorities (talents and skills like work and relationships), or financially (inflation, salary ceilings, macro economic realities, unexpected expenses... let's be honest - life in America is expensive)... living generously like Jesus takes work.
That's one of the reasons Beth and I were so thrilled to have the incredible opportunity to attend our first Celebration of Generosity event last week in Phoenix. We wanted to discover how we could grow in our generosity as a family, today.
What is the Celebration of Generosity?
The Celebration of Generosity is Generous Giving’s annual gathering. It’s an intentional time when people are invited to have significant conversations about financial generosity. The event leaders stress that generosity is not about dollars and all about God’s heart for us and all people. As a result, conversations about generosity focus on aligning how we use and manage our stuff - our time, relationships, skills, and money to God’s heart and what God wants to see in the world. Why? Because in the end, it’s all God’s. We can’t take any of it with us because it isn’t ours to begin with.
Over 650 people heard inspiring stories from people engaged with a national foundation that assists families with wealth management and how to execute complex gifts for charitable causes. We also received biblical teaching from people like Christine Caine (who also spoke at the IF:Gathering via video). We experienced Spirit-led worship led by Matt Maher and Martin Chalk (nothing like a worship leader with a Scottish accent!).
It was a fantastic opportunity for Beth and me, along with 12 other OSLCers, to connect the dots between God’s generosity to us and how Jesus invites us to live out that same generosity to the world.
I left the gathering reflecting on God’s faithful generosity to Beth, our boys, and our families. The truth is that while we have rarely had significant excess, we have always had enough… and in many ways, more than enough (even when I don’t recognize it).
To be honest and vulnerable with you about this topic, here’s a snapshot of Team Bayer.
Beth and I believe that all things are a gift from God - not good or bad, but rather a gift. And like all gifts - kids, work, food, our bodies, relationships, knowledge, clothing, school, the internet, tech (I could go on…), we are invited to manage money in alignment with our relationship with Jesus.
Beth and I don’t have generational financial wealth. Both of our fathers were pastors, and in many ways, we didn’t know just how little money our families had when we were growing up - and yet, we always had enough. My dad’s side of the family were farmers. My mom’s side of the family were railroad workers. Both of Beth’s parents’ sides of the family were educators or pastors. We have immigrants on both sides of our family who left everything behind and spent everything they had to come to America.
Since the ministry is not a publicly traded commodity, we do not have business equity. Therefore, the currency of our portfolio is primarily relationships, time, and skills - not dollars, euros, or crypto.
As a family, we strive to live simply in a world that thrives in indulgence (the struggle is real). Like every disciple and ministry leader in scripture, we live paycheck to paycheck - depending on the generosity of God’s people. We pay self-employment taxes and contribute to Social Security.
We manage debt (a mortgage along with some consumer debt resulting from a combination of some bad (past) tax advice, having purchased a house right before the 2009 housing crisis and selling it in 2013, unexpected medical expenses, and (honestly) some choices we made that weren't "mistakes", but were outside of our means at the time).
A large part of our retirement comes from an employer-paid pension plan. In addition, we have contributed a very small amount to an individual retirement plan to supplement future retirement.
As parents, we live in the tension to manage all the joys and challenges of three (growing) boys.
While dollars are not our core motivation for living, from time to time, we do sometimes dream of what we would do if I transferred my skills to a corporate setting which would produce a storehouse of cash, dividends, stock, and perks. I have had headhunters reach out and ask me to join their firms. Yet, I feel deeply called to ministry, and that’s an intentional, God-driven choice. Would we be "happy" and feel satisfied? No - we don't think so. Why? Because satisfaction only comes from a relationship with Jesus - not from stuff. Easier said than done... but if God's Word is true (which we believe it is), then we lean into it and trust it.
And yet, when opportunities to help others present themselves to be generous (and overly generous), we respond. For example, we have helped (and continue to help) make it possible for people to go to camp. Treating people to a special meal (lately, it has been inviting them to our house to join family dinner), helping students pay for their college education, raising young children, or covering medical bills all have become a generous response to the generosity God has given to us.
Perhaps you can relate to Team Bayer.
So, what did a married couple with an overly generous heart, living paycheck to paycheck, who trust that they always will have (more than) enough, learn from last week’s event?
I’m glad you asked.
First, good things are different from good works.
I never really gave this much thought until Tony Evans shared it from the stage. There is no shortage of good things to spend our time on. Hobbies. Family. Friends. Work. Church and ministry. They’re all gifts from God. Yet, God calls us not to good things but to good works (Ephesians 2:10).
What are good works? God has already given us the answer: To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Justice. Mercy. A relationship with God. Those are the good works that God invites us to invest our time, talents, and finances into.
Another learning is an operational definition of justice.
John Mark Comer encouraged us not to allow others to redefine such a beautiful and biblical word. He helped me understand the biblical definition of justice as “disadvantaging yourself to give others a greater advantage.”
Justice is generosity in action. And both begin and end with the heart of God. The heart of God is always about giving all people the more significant advantages of grace, belonging, acceptance, and unconditional love by disadvantaging himself by sending Jesus not to condemn anybody but to save all people (John 3:17, Philippians 2:1-10). Oh, sweet justice!
Justice is not a matter of human equality or making the scales even. It’s disadvantaging yourself so others receive a more significant advantage.
Regarding money, the truth is that God owns every dollar, won, euro, yen, and bitcoin in the world. He holds every nanosecond in his hands. He is the giver of every musical talent, technical skill, and unique personal gift. Those aren’t equal scales… God owns all of it. We get to use some of it.
What a spectacular picture of the Christian faith. God gives. We receive. With every act of generosity, we continue the story of God in real-time. In this way, everything works together to bring the advantage of Jesus’ forgiveness, life, and promise of eternal salvation to all people.
One way that the Bayers work this out is by learning to understand that everything we have - our clothing, shoes, house, hot tub, sports court, time, education, knowledge, meals, shopping trips, travel time, cars, and so much more are resources to help people know Jesus, not just for our enjoyment. We share it. We give it away. We disadvantage ourselves (not for self-gain), but as an acknowledgment that it isn’t our stuff, to begin with… it’s all God’s stuff on his excellent work of grace and mercy.
Finally, while it was not a learning, per se, we both left with the burning desire to return to something we used to do: work out a Giving Plan.
For the Bayers, having a Giving Plan is a matter of being faithful to God, who gave us each dollar. It acknowledges our relationship with God who gave us each cent to be used for good work, and not knowing how we manage it means that we are not faithfully responsible for God’s money entrusted to us.
So, leaving the conference, we resolved to get back to laying out our Giving Plan. Jeanne McMains reminded us about the “Share. Spend. Save.” Approach - which we used in the past. Our friend Jenny introduced us to this system of managing our time, stuff, and money. In fact, she gave our kids piggy banks with those three “banks” for them to start thinking in those three ways. This is how the approach works.
The first part of our Giving Plan is to determine how much money we share. Right now, between 10 and 11% of each paycheck acknowledges that God gave it to us - so we give it back to him through the local church. Over the years, we have grown from 3% to 5% to where we are now. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so worth it. We’ve seen people come to know Jesus through the ministries those dollars support. And that’s good work! In addition, we support a child through Compassion. We are also planning to talk with our kids about sharing “as a family.” That means our kids will get to choose how to share some of their allowance and special gifts given to our family.
Then, we lay out our Spending Plan. This includes being faithful to provide for the kids God has entrusted us to care for and satisfy our debts (which means to ensure they're none past due). So, things like housing, mortgage payment, insurances, creditors, food, utilities, safety, and clothing. These are the basics. This is excellent work... God's work of providing for others as He has provided for us! We also include how best to invest in our kids’ talents and skills. Music lessons are a big one for us. That’s our choice based on learning how God has uniquely gifted each of them.
We then save about $50 (which, at this point in our lives, is usually spent on unplanned medical expenses).
After that, if there is excess, that is added to our Giving Plan to share as God leads us.
That’s it. That’s how we lay out our Giving Plan.
It’s not perfect… we are working to pay down debts... we are figuring out how to adjust as the cost of living is always shifting and our kids are constantly growing... that means the plan is constantly in flux… but it’s a plan. And we pray that God uses it to help us act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God… and help others do the same.
We left encouraged.
If you’re still reading, then I’m guessing that you may want to grow in this area of your life.
I’m encouraged that the conversation about generosity is less about specific dollars and more about God’s heart for us and all people. I’m encouraged that the conversation about generosity focuses on aligning how we use and manage our stuff - our time, relationships, skills, and money to God’s heart and what God wants to see in the world. Because in the end, it’s all God’s. We can’t take any of it with us because it isn’t ours to begin with. So, I’m excited to see how God will use the seemingly little that we have (in comparison to others in the world) to not only remind me that:
Some personal reflection questions
What might you hear God say concerning how you can use your time, skills, relationships, and finances?
What will you do about it?
Moving Toward or Away from Jesus?
Our Franklin Pierce Schools have some of the most resilient students I have ever known.
This past Monday, Kristi Kellogg and I helped interview dozens of FPHS students who applied to graduate in June with "distinction." Many of them are first-generation high school graduates. Several students I had the honor of getting to know through the process will be first-generation college students, too. Several students were immigrants. And each faced obstacles many of us could never imagine experiencing in high school.
That is all I will say about the students because someday, I would love them to share their stories with you - face to face. But they are their stories to share… not mine.
These students love God, love people, and live like Jesus, where they live, work, learn, and play whether they know it or not.
How can that be?
Ready for some math and science?
Paul Hiebert was a professor at Fuller Seminary in Southern California. He's with Jesus now, but he helped people like me think about people around me differently when he was alive.
He explains that there are centered and bounded sets in "Set Theory" (people in math and science understand what I'm talking about). And while that's true for data, it's also helpful to understand relationships among people in this framework.
Bounded (or fixed) sets have a firm boundary. Data and people are defined by their relationship to the specified limit. There are people inside and outside the perimeter. Knowing the border, describing it, and maintaining distinction is critical to "being" and "belonging" to the set (or not). These sets do not change - they only add or lose what is inside the boundary. This means that the entire purpose of the set is to "cross the boundary" from the outside to be inside.
On the other hand, centered sets do not focus on the boundary. Instead, the data and people in a centered group are defined by their relationship to (you guessed it) the center. All data and people are either removed toward or away from the center. The limit or boundaries are still part of the set but are only determined by the relationship the data or person is to the center - not the boundary. Some may be near and others far, but always moving.
Enough math and science for now.
We often default to thinking (and living) in bounded sets. People are in or out based on a moral standard or behavior that we have come to accept as a norm within a community.
The reason I say that the students we met earlier this week love God, love people, and live like Jesus where they live, work, learn, and play whether they know it or not is that from a "centered set" understanding, God already loves them. God is already the center of life because Jesus is risen. So, their relationship with Jesus - whether they know Jesus or not, is a matter of distance, not crossing a boundary or doing something to "cross over" into the God-stuff.
In fact, the world is all God's and everything in it (Psalm 19), and Jesus tore down the boundary that separated all people from God (Philippians 2).
Earlier this year, I was reminded by my friend Jeff that people are either moving toward Jesus or away from Jesus.
Along with that, distance is not the same as openness. If Jesus is the center, you and I can be:
I don't know where the students are with the center of life - Jesus. But, if Jesus' word is accurate and He says that we will know we are my disciples by our love - then these students are not that far from the center at all. . . perhaps they don't know how close Jesus really is to them.
And who will share that good news with them if that's the case?
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.