“The loss of lasts…” That’s what our 2020 seniors are experiencing (or at least anticipating) right now. We had such a great conversation with Ryan McDermott from Christ Fellowship on Student Ministry That Matters LIVE this week to discuss ways we can still help seniors feel celebrated and loved. Ryan shared some of the ways his team is brainstorming right now, and many of you did, too.
We compiled as many of those ideas as we can for you to reference as you consider how to celebrate the seniors in your ministry this year, too.
Pre-Graduation Time Frame
Now is a great time to just listen to how seniors are feeling and to help others in your church hear how they feel, too. At the very least, seniors are feeling disappointed, but many are probably experiencing grief and sadness, as well. Some may know for sure that their events are cancelled, while others may still be waiting to hear. Consider:
- A group video chat or phone call with seniors, just to hear how they feel. Don’t provide solutions right now, help them feel heard.
- Taking on senior small-groups yourself (where appropriate) in order to help them feel a little more special.
- Equipping your leaders to engage in these conversations about disappointment without dismissing students’ feelings.
While things are still somewhat hypothetical right now, seniors may feel the losses more deeply as particular anticipated dates pass. Here are some ways your ministry might plan to celebrate together:
Plan a Virtual Graduation Ceremony
Plan a date and time to host a graduation ceremony via Zoom or another virtual platform. Invite seniors to pre-register so you can plan to honor them specifically, and let families know when and how it will take place.
Ryan shared that his church is considering sending a grad box beforehand to students who register—something special for them to open during the virtual ceremony that contains a few fun graduate mementos.
- Class of 2020 t-shirt
- Ministry “diploma”
- Grad cap and/or custom tassel (Ryan orders his from Anchor of Faith)
- Well-wishes/card(s) from someone in the church or their parents
- Confetti poppers
- Ring Pop “class ring”
Virtual Ceremony Elements
- Graduation song plays as seniors and families are jumping into ZOOM.
- Slide show containing pictures students have sent in—camp, mission trips, ministry events, etc.
- Short speeches from a few students
- Commencement Speaker (this could be your pastor to make it feel extra special)
- Time of Prayer (mute all mics and invite parents to pray out loud over their seniors)
- Walk (call students’ names and let them “walk” across a space in their home
- Closing speech/prayer & have students take a pic/video of “turning their tassel” and tag your ministry on social
- Encourage families to do an after-party at home
Partner With Parents
After students have registered for virtual graduation, send parents an email with next steps. Give them a heads up on any elements you’d like them to be involved in, and encourage them to plan an at-home party after the ceremony. Encourage them to get creative—maybe even create a stage or graduation backdrop in their homes! You could even share a party playlist with them.
Senior Gifts and Send-off
- A Different College Experience by Ben Trueblood and Brian Mills
- New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
- Apologetics Study Bible
- Printed photo collage/frame with signatures (collect digitally)
- “Box” of Blessings—assemble notes and prayers from church members and family (can do this digitally, as well) for each student.
- Collect information about where your seniors will be attending college and give them a list of local churches to try out. Connect them to former students at the same school.
- Begin incorporating seniors into your college ministry to help them continue to feel connected.
- Consider an in-person gathering in early fall to send seniors off to college, if permitted.
Create a digital book for the congregation to look at during senior recognition week (you might provide families with a printed copy) that includes each senior’s picture, a few pictures from their time in student ministry, college plans, awards, parents names, and a small quote about what about what their time in the church/ministry has meant to them. You may also want to acknowledge the “completion” of what the church/families committed to during baby dedication many years ago.John Walker, London Bridge Baptist Church
Besides a Bible, we give a backpack that says, “On Mission”. The idea of sending them out. We also have parents write out a “Blessing/Prayer” they read to them during our gathering one on one.Lenexa Baptist Church
We’d love to hear what you’re brainstorming for your seniors. Share what you’re doing or what you’d like to do in the comments so others might borrow your ideas for their own ministries!