It’s senior season and next month you should be celebrating your graduating seniors. But how? Last year was a mad-dash of just trying to come up with something, anything that we could do in light of being on lockdown. This year let’s take what we innovated last year, couple it with what we have learned and make it excellent!
One of the ways I know how to make things excellent is collaborate. So for this post I reached out to my friend Brandon Bales down in Houston, TX to see how he was thinking about doing graduation right this year.
Here are 5 things you could/should be celebrating your seniors that are effective and inexpensive.
1) Use Social Media Brags! This is not a time for #humblebrag. Let the whole world know about your students.
Use social media to brag on 👏🏼 every👏🏼single👏🏼student.👏🏼 Don’t offer one glossy announcement post about “Senior Sunday,” take some time over the entire month of May to feature individual students. Feature their stories, their pictures, and maybe even short video interviews with them.
The best part is, you don’t have to create all the content. Just organize it. Their parents/guardians want their church to brag on them. You just need to create some ways to collect the information.
Tip from Brandon: “We asked students and parents to fill out a questionnaire to help us create a social media post bragging on them. Everything from personal, school, and church accomplishments We let their resume outside of church crash into the stream of your church audience. Everyone loves to connect with a story.”
2) Involve the whole church: Adopt a senior.
This one takes a little bit of organizing, but the return on investment is worth it. Connect each senior with an adult lifegroup, small group, or family in your church that is not their biological family. Show how much your church can care by creating relational space for them. Raise the stakes for the stakeholders of your church. Share that questionnaire submitted from the social media brag posts and create a personal bond between a graduating senior and member/group within your church.
Tip from Brandon: “We ask our adult LifeGroups to adopt a senior or two. Each LG will have that senior share their testimony to adult LG so there is a personal connection. Later in May, usually the day before the student graduates, the LG shows up to the students house and presents them with a graduation basket.”
3) Take it outside! Host a celebratory senior picnic.
In this midpoint of COVID restrictions we are all becoming more comfortable and familiar with gathering outdoors. So if it works for your crew, church, or congregation take the party outside and set up in a configuration that makes sense for you and creates a party/BBQ environment for your students.
Why? Because celebration means fun! BBQs are casual, fun, and usually there are a few folks in your church with new smokers from summer 2020 that want to show off. A lot of your students will have special parties with their families and friends, but I cannot tell you the impact it has to throw a celebratory party for a student who may not have the resources, funds, or support to celebrate this milestone with their church family.
Tip from Brandon: “We used to try and host a fancy dinner inside, but the fun outdoor environment for springtime was a smash success, way more than previous years.”
4) Establish Prayer Moments.
More than just recognition and event planning, make some concentrated effort at creating key prayer moments for students with moms/dads/guardians and for seniors with other students. Make prayer a big piece of the way you care for your graduating seniors.
Tip From Brandon: “During the summer we have three times where the student body will lay hands on the seniors: 1) camp 2) mission trip 3) promo Sunday.”
5) Make A Day of It: Promo Sunday.
This is probably something you have already done or are planning on doing, but when it is done in conjunction with these other elements then the combined force is powerful. They are worth celebrating for a Sunday. Whether you decide to make it happen in May or later in the summer do build in time for a weekend worship gathering event that features them, commissions them, and cares for them by name.
Tip From Brandon: “Whenever you plan events like these you are planning for now and for future students. Events like these create moments, moments become memories, and memories can fuel healthy traditions.”
So there you go! Off and running, not to just plan more, but to connect your graduating seniors with the lifeblood of your congregation so that more folks can share in the joy of their growing.
Brandon Bales is the Associate Pastor of Student Ministry at NEHBC in Houston, TX. He is a veteran of student ministry, a Mastermind host for Youth Ministry Booster, and a wise and kind friend.
This content was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.