If you are listening to this years election campaigns you will inevitably hear candidates talk about the plight of college graduates who are saddled with debt and without a job. This is an easy button trigger because no parent wants their child to hit a stall in their life progression. They want them to thrive in college and become more successful than they are/were.
You might not be able to boost the economy. But that does not mean you cannot help at all.
Is there some way that we as a youth worker can help?
- Be comfortable talking about money yourself. Money can be one of those taboo subjects that families are uncomfortable talking about. The strange behavior is though, if you start acknowledging the lack of money, need for money, budget needs, financial planning, and/or possibly of wealth then money starts to act the way you always hope for it. Be comfortable talking about money as a family.
- Talk to some financial planners. This might help you talk up the money needs of a family, but mostly it will help you understand the scope of families and what their wants and obstacles are in providing for their family. Find a financial planner in the congregation or community, take them to lunch and just ask them (generally) what their top dreams and hopes for their families are. You can also learn some good advice. Did you know that many financial advisers would suggest parents planning and saving for retirement over college first. The logic being that there are no financial options for retirement, but there are for college.
- Know how to get scholarships. Schools are zapped for funds and guidance counselors are one of those first positions that are cut. Someone needs to know how to help youth find/get scholarship monies for college. Be ready to write letters and coach youth on filling out applications. Know the places to find denomination/faith specific scholarships. Call those over burdened school counselors as ask them for information that you can follow up with your students. Have a yearly meeting for your juniors and seniors and their families to share this information (if you only want to say this once).
- Know what the main colleges your youth are attending cost. You could download the College Tuition Planner (good idea to share with parents) to keep up to date on college costs. But have an idea of what hurdle, money wise, families and students are facing in going off to college. This will help you be empathetic and supportive. Might even help you prepare for you own family. We all know that youth ministry is never a career with financial hurdles.
- Talk about saving for college to the teenagers. For many, going to college was one of those many things parents did for their kids. That is less the case today. Help youth understanding saving for their own college aspirations.
- Look for opportunities to help youth develop or encourage their own entrepreneurial opportunities. Almost by accident, I have helped a few youth develop web, video, and photography skills that they have translated into small businesses that make them money for spending money as well as college needs. Not to mention the experience of business and learning. They have the capacity to do some cool things. Be a champion or mentor (mentor finder) of those for the young people.