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.

Don’t Worship Your Seniors

graduation-landingSenior Sunday is just around the corner.  And with it, all the pomp and circumstance.  Honoring and recognizing the seniors is a nice sentiment – and we have always done it in our ministry.  But sometimes we cross the line with our graduates….in my humble, but accurate opinion.

When we focus as much or more attention on our seniors than we do on Jesus, we’ve crossed over into ‘senior worship.’  And here’s a news flash – that doesn’t just happen on Senior Recognition Sunday.  If you reserve the best bus spots for seniors, you’ve crossed a line.  If your seniors’ continual complaints about 7th graders have caused you to re-work your entire ministry, you may be in danger of putting them higher on the list than they should be.  If your senior Sunday festivities include kids walking in to “Majesty”, decked in their grad gear and waving to their subjects…you’ve definitely gone too far.

Honor the seniors – absolutely – they’ve come a long way, baby.  But do it in a way that puts the focus on Jesus, not on them.  Otherwise, you may be missing the depth of this verse in Luke 14.

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?  The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!  “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (emphasis mine)

Tomorrow, we’ll bring you some tips on honoring those seniors well!

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