As graduation invitations begin to flood in, you might be reflecting on the impact your ministry has had on your transitioning seniors. How can your ministry send your seniors off right, this year and with future classes? They need more than just a graduation party. Here are a few other ways you can celebrate your seniors and prepare them for the next stage of life throughout their final year in your ministry:
1) Senior Sneak
Each year in the fall, our ministry takes our new senior class on a weekend trip to the mountains. We challenge them about their legacy in the student ministry, including how they will invest in the freshman, how they will contribute to the life of the church, and how they will end their time in high school well. We also help the students discover their unique leadership types and strengths, demonstrating how these gifts will influence their lives as they move into the adult world. We provide extended times of reflection and prayer, and small group leaders pray over every senior. The weekend is a powerful time of bonding and has become one of my favorite trips we lead.
2) Senior Seminar
A small group (or groups) of seniors meets together monthly throughout the semester to discuss big questions they might not get to ask in other settings. They dive into a range of pressing topics, from theological issues to real life situations. This year we used Doug Franklin’s book Moving On, which has been a fantastic conversation starter for topics of mission and calling. Ultimately, this small group setting has been a great way to engage our seniors and listen to them discuss and discover.
For the final senior seminar, the junior class is invited to join. The seniors pass the baton of leadership and charge the juniors with the responsibility of leading the ministry. Then the seniors surround them with a prayer of blessing and commission in what has become a critical moment in the life of our ministry and a valued rite of passage.
3) Senior Salute
In early May—before the flood of graduations and parties—we dedicate a Saturday morning to honoring the seniors and their families. We provide a continental breakfast accompanied by a slide show featuring pictures of them throughout their time in our ministry, from middle school to high school. We enjoy a lot of laughs, but this allows us to show and talk about how they have matured over the years.
Every senior is honored and given a Bible with a verse written inside as a specific prayer of challenge and blessing. Their parents write and share a letter expressing how proud they are of their seniors and how much they love them. (We send an email to parents well in advance so they have plenty of time to craft this important letter.) Finally, we invite our college ministry leaders to be present at this event so they can officially receive and welcome the graduates into the college ministry at our church. It is a wonderful day filled with beautiful memories and a healthy sense of transition.
Together, these events have given our seniors a unique sense of purpose and identity in our ministry. May we celebrate our seniors well and honor the memory-making and legacy-leaving moments we were given together.