It’s Christmas time again, and whether your youth ministry load gets lighter or heavier, now is the perfect time to start thinking about graduating seniors. The reason I say this is because if you don’t start now it will sneak up on your faster than you know. For many years our church would do a normal graduating senior party or maybe a baccalaureate for the seniors and a couple of years ago we decided to do a little more and incorporate the family along with the church body.
We now host a catered dinner that includes a guest speaker, music, food, community and a special time of blessing from the parents and the youth workers. We work with the parents before hand so that they know what they are getting themselves into and they come up in front of everyone and give a special blessing to their child. Taking a moment to tell them how special they are and how great it has been watching them grow up. Often times they will even share a piece of scripture with them. After this a youth worker follows up with a blessing as well and then prays over the family and the student. We are continuing to grow this idea and are now thinking through ways to have this event incorporate more of the church family.
So whether you decide to go this route or come up with your own creative event I want to make the case that now is the time to start planning and thinking about your graduating seniors. Regardless of what you do, here are some things I would suggest:
1. Get the parents involved – For years we did not do this and when it is done right – where you set the parents up for success – it is always a hit. We have even had parents that do not go to church give a blessing to their student and this has been a huge way to reach out to them.
2. Get the small group leaders involved – There is just something special about not only being affirmed by family but by the small group leader that has invested so much into their lives.
3. Find ways to incorporate the whole church – We are continuously trying out new ideas, but it is very important for the students to know that they are a part of the church family. The more they feel a part of this community the more likely they are to have connections and want to come back, even when they are out from under their parents direct guidance.
BONUS SUGGESTION: You will want to keep up with these seniors even after they move on, so use this Christmas time to connect with last years graduating seniors that are coming home for the holidays.
What are some ways that you celebrate graduating seniors that you might suggest?
Kevin Klas has been in youth ministry for 10 years. He is currently the director of student ministries at Lake City Community Church in Lakewood, WA.