ME: We would like for us to recognize our seniors in service as graduating youth.
PASTOR: That’s great, how would you like to do that?
ME: We would want to recognize our two youth in our second service and give them a gift that we set aside budget money for to get.
PASTOR: I love it. What do we do about the three other youth in the church that are also graduating?
ME: There are others?
You know the issue. We come to that end of the year and our eldest youth are hitting that life milestone graduating from high school. Parents are happy, we as their youth leaders are sad (sometimes happy). There is this natural want to recognize this milestone in the lives of the youth and the youth community. BUT, there are also those youth who are also graduating high school AND are members of the church BUT not active with the youth ministry. Sometimes they are so inactive you do not even know who they are.
Yet, they are important.
So how do we recognize our graduating seniors and keep everything from being awkward?
The best way to lead these celebrations is to separate recognition moments.
1. Have the church celebrate all the youth from the community that it claims within its rolls. At some point they were affirmed into membership of the church, even if they were not an active member of the youth community. Let the pastors and lay leadership make that a responsibility of their celebration. Send out invitations to all the youth on the rolls and let them choose to participate in the church’s celebration.
2. Have a separate opportunity for the youth group community to celebrate those who are active in the group. This needs to be ample time of personal reflection and emotional good byes (even if it isn’t a complete good bye, there is an emotional break from the thread that united the youth together). Let that be in an environment and time that gives the youth comfort. Begin this as a tradition for the youth group with a ritual of blessing by the group. Those who are active in the group and invested in the group will know that this milestone is coming up and will be there.
What to give?
Then comes the eternal burning question of what do you give to these graduating seniors?
For the senior celebration that the church is responsible for go with something that has some practical element to it and is less personal. Some of my gifts over the years have been items that can go into their room (dorm room or other room) or could fit into a college lifestyle.
- Salvador Cross
- Waterproof Bible
- Water Bottle with a Church logo or saying
- Travel Coffee Mug with personalization
- Favorite Book with some well wishing write up in the cover
- Gift card/s for restaurant
For the senior celebration that the youth group is responsible for go with something that has the personal touch that the youth can participate in or be represented in.
- Photobook with pictures from their years of youth participation
- Group photo with youth members signed matte
- If you did a personality or strengths profile over their time, a creative frame with their traits
- A specific gift that fits each youth’s personality & passions
- Signed cards
- Notes of Affirmation in a jar type container
- Poem or Song written for the seniors
- A mix tape (cd) put together by the youth with songs from their years of ministry
What other great ideas have you used for celebrating your Senior Class?