High School Graduation is a major milestone in the life of a young person as well as their families. Lots of excitement and anxiety surrounds this young person during their final high school days. In addition to the pomp and circumstance of the commencement ceremony, teens are participating in months of lasts (tests, concerts, games, dances, etc.), planning their own graduation parties, attending dozens of parties for their friends, finishing up their school work, and figuring out how to answer the dreaded, “What are you doing after college?” question. With all of these meaningful activities already taking up their time and energy, what is the role of the church in celebrating this milestone? How can we as youth ministers and community support the graduate and their family without competing for their time and energy? We recommend the three points of action below:
Lean on Rituals
If these young people have been baptized, received first communion, affirmed their baptism, or become members of your congregation it’s likely they’ve been part of a ritual which has welcomed them into your faith community. Graduation is a time to remind everyone, especially the young person, that your church has promised to encourage them throughout their lifelong faith journey. Carve out time in worship or youth group to read the promises your community has made to the graduate throughout their childhood. Remind them that they are beloved, and that God goes with them into their next endeavor.
When a young person graduates high school, they often begin a new chapter in a new community. For some this is means going away to college, but others will learn a trade, enlist in military service, or enter the work force full time. When you learn what’s in store for these young adults, reach out to church leaders in these new communities to make them aware of the amazing young person who is coming their way. This will help the recent graduate remain connected to a faith group, even if it doesn’t look or feel like the one they left.
Your congregation might have special programs in place for graduates, like a baccalaureate service or a senior breakfast. Great! But don’t think you have to add a bunch of new things to their packed schedule in order for the church to be part of the celebrations. You can attend the events that are already happening and bring the church to them. Inform confirmation mentors, prayer partners, mission trip chaperones, and other staff of what activities are unfolding at the end of the school year. Have church leaders volunteer for the senior prom. Make sure church people are at the graduation parties and commencement ceremony.
Graduation season can be a frenetic time for youth ministers. Take a deep breath. Enjoy these special moments. And try not to overdo it with the cake and punch.
If you have any other recommendations when handling graduation please let us know in the comments!