Meaningful Gifts for Christian Graduates
It’s that time of year again and you’re probably looking for a gift for a graduate or two (or three or four). We looked over several lists of suggestions from Christian organizations and found that there was a need for a list of more “meaningful” gift suggestions. So, without further ado:
Books on finding our place in God’s will and work
1. The Call – Os Guinness
The Call continues to stand as a classic, reflective work on life’s purpose. Best-selling author Os Guinness goes beyond our surface understanding of God’s call and addresses the fact that God has a specific calling for our individual lives.
Why am I here? What is God’s call in my life? How do I fit God’s call with my own individuality? How should God’s calling affect my career, my plans for the future, my concepts of success?
According to Guinness, “No idea short of God’s call can ground and fulfill the truest human desire for purpose and fulfillment.” With tens of thousands of readers to date, The Call is for all who desire a purposeful, intentional life of faith
2. How Not To Miss God Moving- Craig Smith
Graduation is a time when students are longing to hear God’s voice and see Him lead them more than perhaps ever before. The Bible is filled with stories of those who saw God moving and caught the ride of their lives. But for nearly every inspiring example there is a cautionary tale of those who somehow missed the Almighty in their midst. Join Christian pastor, scholar, speaker and author Craig A. Smith for a faith-transforming investigation into what caused these men and women to miss God moving…and learn how not to make the same mistakes! Includes life-application questions, reflections and activities for small group discussion.
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work – Tim Keller
New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller shows how God calls on each of us to express meaning and purpose through our work and careers.
Tim Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God, has taught and counseled students, young professionals, and senior leaders on the subject of work and calling for more than twenty years. Now he pulls his insights into a thoughtful and practical book for readers everywhere.
With deep conviction and often surprising advice, Keller shows readers that biblical wisdom is immensely relevant to our questions about work today. In fact, the Christian view of work—that we work to serve others, not ourselves—can provide the foundation of a thriving professional and balanced personal life. Keller shows how excellence, integrity, discipline, creativity, and passion in the workplace can help others and even be considered acts of worship—not just of self-interest.
Resources for Going Deeper into Scripture
4. Grasping God’s Word- Hays and Duvall
Grasping God’s Word has proven itself in classrooms across the country as an invaluable help to students who want to learn how to read, interpret, and apply the Bible for themselves. The third edition, revised based on feedback from professors, will continue to serve college-level students and lay learners well in their quest to gain a firm grasp on the rock of God’s word. Old Testament scholar J. Daniel Hays and New Testament expert J. Scott Duvall provide practical, hands-on exercises to guide students through the interpretive process. To emphasize the Bible’s redemptive arc and encourage correlation across the canon, the authors have included a call to “cross into the rest of Scripture” as an additional step in the Interpretive Journey. This edition has also been rearranged for clarity and includes updated illustrations, appendices, bibliography, and assignments. A website for professors offers extensive teaching materials, and an accompanying revised workbook (Grasping God’s Word Workbook―sold separately) gives students additional practice in reading and interpreting the Bible.
5. Logos Bible Software Starter Package
This is certainly on the more expensive side of things, but if you have a graduate who is preparing for vocational ministry or who simply has a deep love for God’s Word, this is a perfect gift. The Logos software system brings together advanced Bible search (want to know how many times the word “Lord” and the word “God” appear together in a single verse within the minor prophets?) and study tools, along with resources like Bible dictionaries and commentaries.
Books on Preparing for Marriage
This might seem like seem like a “premature” category of gifts for graduates, but the fact is that many men and women find their spouses in the years shortly following graduation from high school. So when would be a better time to start thinking about the kind of person you want to marry and the kind of person you should be before you get married?
6. The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not About Who You Marry but Why? – Gary Thomas
What if you stopped looking for a “soul mate” and started looking for a “sole mate”—someone who will live out with you the great purpose of God? What if dating isn’t about finding “the one” but making a wise choice so you can better serve the One who loves you most? What if God didn’t design relationships to make you happy but to make you holy?
In The Sacred Search, Gary Thomas will transform the way you look at romantic relationships. Whether you are single, dating, or engaged, Gary’s unique perspective on dating will prepare you for a satisfying, spiritually enriching marriage even before you walk down the aisle. As Gary reminds us, a good marriage is not something you find—it’s something you make.
7. The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption – Matt Chandler
The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need it. Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word. And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy.
Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage … even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love
Misc. Books Worth Considering
8. The Graduate’s Survival Guide – Cruze & Ramsey
What if there was a personal guide that would prepare graduating seniors for their college experience? Now, there is one. Rachel Cruze is excited to introduce The Graduate’s Survival Guide. No incoming college freshman should leave home without this gift, which will help prepare them for many of the dangers and unanswered questions they have about college.
The Graduate’s Survival Guide includes a book, presented in a fun and easy Q&A format, that will quickly become a trusted companion.
9. My Utmost For His Highest – Oswald Chambers
“I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and for Him alone.” So says Oswald Chambers in the first of the daily devotions in My Utmost for His Highest. This attitude of complete surrender to God pervades the work, the most popular devotional book ever published. In the words of former U. S. Senate chaplain Richard Halverson, “No other book except the Bible has influenced my walk with Christ at such deep and maturing levels.” Now in a deluxe collector’s edition, the value of Chambers’ words of truth can be treasured for a lifetime.
10. Mere Christianity- C.S Lewis
In 1941 England, when all hope was threatened by the inhumanity of war, C. S. Lewis was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. More than half a century later, these talks continue to retain their poignancy. First heard as informal radio broadcasts on the BBC, the lectures were published as three books and subsequently combined as Mere Christianity. C. S. Lewis proves that “at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice,” rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity’s many denominations. This twentieth century masterpiece provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith.
With a new foreword by Lewis’s stepson, Douglas Gresham, this illustrated gift edition evokes the historic time and place of the book’s creation.
Books With Answers for Tough Questions
Many students are overwhelmed by challenges to their faith when they first get to college. It can be very helpful to have a resource to turn to for answers to questions that they may be asked to deal with for the first time. Here are three resources that we recommend:
11. Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students – J. Budziszewski
The college years are full of life-defining questions and concerns. Dr Budziszewski (aka Professor Theophilus) offers his expert opinion to help students achieve personal insight about the most controversial and confusing topics they may face.
12. Ask Me Anything 2: More Provocative Answers for College Students – J. Budziszewski
College students have real questions about real-life issues. Professor Theophilus offers answers in a completely fresh way from a Christian standpoint. Sixteen dialogues about college life for Christians cover topics such as faith and reasoning, love and sex, and much more.
13. Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (With Answers) – Mark Mittelberg
“Why are Christians against same-sex people getting married? . . . Why do you believe God exists at all? . . . Why would God allow evil and suffering? . . . Why trust the Bible when it’s full of mistakes? . . . How could a loving God send people to hell? . . . What makes you think Jesus was more than just a good teacher? . . . Why are Christians so judgmental?”
Some questions can stop a conversation. Today, more than ever, people are raising difficult, penetrating questions about faith, God, and the Bible. Based on an exclusive new Barna survey of 1,000 Christians, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask presents compelling, easy-to-grasp answers to ten of the most troubling questions facing Christians today. These include everything from the existence of heaven to the issues of abortion and homosexuality, as well as the question of whether evolution eliminates our need for a God.
A Different Bible
If your graduate has a thin-line Bible, consider getting them a less-portable Bible with more robust study aids (i.e. a good Study Bible). If they have a good Study Bible, consider getting them a thin-line Bible with a latchable cover that will be easy to carry in a backpack and will protect the pages from getting bent out of shape. Or perhaps its time for a new translation that may inspire more time in God’s Word. Here are a couple of suggestions:
14. NIV Study Bible
The NIV Study Bible is the #1 bestselling study Bible in the world’s most popular modern English Bible translation―the New International Version. This best-loved NIV Study Bible features a stunning four-color interior with full-color photographs, maps, charts, and illustrations. Since its first release in 1985, the Gold Medallion Award-winning NIV Study Bible has become the treasured and trusted companion of over nine million Bible readers. The in-depth notes are coded to highlight notes of special interest in the areas of character study, archaeology, and personal application. Visually arresting section breaks help you find your bearing in the Bible. Full-color photos, maps, and illustrations make this study Bible accessible and friendly. Referred to daily by millions of pastors, students, church leaders, and other Bible readers around the world, the over-20,000 NIV Study Bible notes are the handiwork of the same translation team that produced this Bible’s text. The very best evangelical scholarship that brought you today’s most popular modern English Bible also contributed to the most celebrated and widely used study notes in existence. All of these features, and more, also make it perfect for homeschool use. Like no other Bible, the NIV Study Bible places an entire resource library for Bible study in your hands.
• Full text of the world’s most popular modern English Bible―the New International Version (NIV)
• Over 20,000 study notes, with icons to make important information easy to spot
• Introductions and outlines provide valuable background information for each book of the Bible
• In-text maps, charts, diagrams, and illustrations visually clarify the stories in the Bible
• 16 pages of full-color maps plus time lines and presentation page
• Words of Christ in red
• NIV concordance plus subject and study notes indexes
15. ESV Thinline Bible
At just over ½ inch thin, the ESV UltraThin Bible is highly portable and great for on-the-go reading. The Bible text is printed on high-quality, extra-thin Bible paper in an improved typesetting. Additional features include a ribbon, concordance, and maps. With a sewn binding and lifetime guarantee, this is a durable and versatile Bible for everyday use.
- Words of Christ in red
- Double-column, paragraph format
- Gilded edges
- Lifetime guarantee
Giving specific music has gotten a little trickier lately since fewer and fewer people use CD’s, but it is still possible to give specific albums through Amazon or iTunes (click the links in this sentence to see how to use those services to gift a specific song or album). Here are some of our favorite new worship albums:
16. Hillsong Young and Free – We Are Young And Free (Live)
17. Matt Maher – Saints and Sinners
18. Planetshakers – This Is Our Time (Live)
19. Bethel Music – We Will Not Be Shaken
Dorm Room Outreach Tools
The idea here is to give your graduate some tools to help him/her think missionally about life in the dorm and build authentic relationships:
20. Board Games
Give your graduate a few fun board games and a deck of cards with a note encouraging him/her to invite friends over for some good, clean, (and sober!) fun. Sometimes, just offering a fun, safe place to go for weekend fun is a welcome alternative and an important ministry to college students.
21. Pancake Griddle (Electric) & Batter (and chocolate chips!)
Who doesn’t love chocolate chip pancakes? Set your graduate up with a griddle, and pancake supplies (a large box of mix, chocolate chips and syrup from Costco should do for a while!) and a note, challenging them to host a (free) weekly Saturday pancake breakfast in their dorm. It’s a great way to build community, grow relationships and minister to your fellow man. Not to mention, it will make them the coolest guy or girl in the dorm!
22. Inexpensive but meaningful things to give away for encouragement when the opportunity/need arises
(a collection of birthday and thinking of you type cards, religious “inspirational” jewelry from Sam Moon, mini crosses, etc.) – It’s easier to give a gift of encouragement to someone in need if you have a little encouraging something handy to give away. Give your graduate a mini stockpile of things that are expressly for them to give away and challenge them to look and pray for opportunities to be used by God to encourage others throughout the semester. You could use the same principle with a gift card to Starbucks or a bagel shop or a favorite restaurant, challenging them that they are to use it expressly for the purpose of ministering to someone else in a time of need.
23. Inexpensive but meaningful things to give away for evangelism (and/or discipleship) when the opportunity/need arises
(copies of The Case for Christ, One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven, or any of Mark Cahill’s materials, tracts, Bibles, etc.) – Just as with gifts of encouragement in #22 above, a person is more likely to take advantage of an opportunity to give someone some Christian literature to read if they already have it handy to give away. Provide them with both a small stockpile of materials, and a thoughtful challenge to use them well.
24. Frisbee Golf set, “World’s Largest Slip ‘n Slide” (or other outdoor fun equipment) –
This is the outdoor version of #19. College students love to go outside and have some fun. Equip them to do so with a few balls, a bocci ball game set, frisbee golf, paddle ball, etc… Also genius, give them a monster slip ‘n slide set with a 100’ long plastic sheet from the local hardware store and some dish soap (they can use rocks or cinder blocks to weigh down the corners). All they’ll need is some lawn and a hose…and a hill if they really want to have fun! (To up the fun, give them two! They can have slide competitions side by side!) Additionally, a large exercise ball can be a lot of fun–use it to play a soccer-basketball hybrid game, called “Big Ball”…which is even more fun played after dark! The point is to challenge your grad to plan some good, clean, crazy, (even better if it’s out of the box, like a monster slip ‘n slide or crazy made up game called “Big Ball”), outdoor fun and to invite others to join in…
Books About Living Missionally
And speaking of thinking missionally, here are some books to help your graduate cultivate this perspective:
25. Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess – Jen Hatmaker
American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.
Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.
26. Becoming a Contagious Christian – Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg
Evangelism doesn’t have to be frustrating or intimidating. Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg believe that effectively communicating our faith in Christ should be the most natural thing in the world. We just need encouragement and direction. In Becoming a Contagious Christian, Hybels and Mittelberg articulate the central principles that have helped the believers at Willow Creek Community Church become a church known around the world for its outstanding outreach to unchurched people. Based on the words of Jesus and flowing from the firsthand experiences of the authors, Becoming a Contagious Christian is a groundbreaking, personalized approach to relational evangelism. You will discover your own natural evangelism style, how to develop a contagious Christian character, to build spiritually strategic relationships, to direct conversations toward matters of faith, and to share biblical truths in everyday language. This landmark book presents a blueprint for starting a spiritual epidemic of hope and enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel.
27. One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven – Mark Cahill
Are you ready for eternity? If so, are you helping others get ready for that journey into eternity that each of us must take? As believers, we all know that we should tell others about the Lord, but we often don’t know how. This practical book gives great ideas for starting conversations, examples of witnessing situations, and solid answers to common questions. It will help motivate and equip you to reach both friends and strangers for Jesus Christ the rest of your life! Hear stories of real-life encounters that demonstrate how to put these principles into action. Learn how to open conversations and keep them going using very simple questions and ideas familiar to all of us. See how to navigate around common would-be obstacles to walk people right to the gospel. Then see how the lost are impacted to be thinking about eternity and thankful to have their questions answered. You’ll be filled with incredible thanks for having done so.