Senior Send-Off

graduation2May.  (and sometimes June.)  The seniors have finally arrived!!  They started out with finger paints just a few years ago – and now their turning tassels and heading to college.

And of course your church wants to honor them.  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Give parents an option for blessing.  About two months before graduation, we ask parents send us a baby photo, a current photo, and a short written blessing.  We send the request to every family that calls our church home…even if they don’t attend.  We use the photos to create a slide show that we use during our worship service.  We utilize the photos and the blessing in a ‘scrapbook’ of sorts…a memory book with scripture, photos, news clippings, etc.

2.  Take your shot at a blessing.  I always write something personal to each graduate.  Yes, sometimes it’s difficult and I am pulling stuff out of my….bible.  I also have some adults in my church who would not be caught dead ‘serving in the student ministry.’  But they read their newspaper more faithfully than their Bibles.  I provide them with a list of incoming 7th graders each year and have them start scanning the paper for positive news articles featuring those kids.  I also have a few adults whose sole responsibility is to ‘historianize’ our student ministry – so as they take pictures, I store them on my computer.  Each senior gets a thumb drive with YM photos, videos, etc.

3.  Give students an option for blessing.  Each year I find a great picture of each graduating senior and blow it up poster size.  one night during Bible study, our students write personal messages to that graduate on their poster.

4.  Give gifts.  We always try to include something of ‘spiritual’ significance in our senior send-off.  We’ve given Bibles, promise books, personal items with key Bible verses on them…something eternal during this time that is passing…and something they can take with them into the future.

5.  Celebrate together.  We invite families to a breakfast on ‘senior Sunday’.  We spend time reminiscing and I give a challenge for the future.  We also give any gifts during this time.  That way, if we have seniors in the worship service (but don’t have gifts or personal information on them), they can participate without it being awkward for everyone.

6.  Give your church an option for blessing.  We did away with ‘senior recognition’ a long time ago.  Students don’t wear their grad garb to service, we don’t list accomplishments, they don’t march in.  We utilize a slide show during the offering and offer an insert with our worship guide detailing students specifically.  But the ‘honoring’ of seniors is merely a gathering of seniors in the front – and our adults surrounding them and laying hands on them we pray a prayer of commissioning and consecration over them as they head off to the future.  Whatever we do during the worship service, I always want to make sure it points more to Jesus and less to people.

7.  Let them stay.  Don’t promote seniors until the end of the summer.  You have two or three months left for maximum impact.  Don’t send them into that weird no-man’s land.  (Unless your church has a specific transition process for graduates!)  Maximize your impact before they head off on their own.

Author: Darren Sutton

I've been in student ministry nearly 30 years…which generally just confirms how much I still don't know. Some days I'm the pizza-eating, over-responding, teaching-on-the-fly, desperate-for-volunteers, frustrated-with-co-workers youth leader that we all are. And sometimes…I knock it out of the park. I'm everywhere on social media that you are!

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