Graduation season is upon us. You can’t deny it any longer – just look at the stack of graduation party invitations that is sitting on your desk. As a youth minister I have always had a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love it because it is a time to look back over four years of relationships, ministry and growth. We get to celebrate what God has done in the lives of our teens. I love the opportunity to honor the teens in front of the entire community and have them pray for the graduates. But the hatred comes in when I think about sitting through another graduation ceremony; when I think about how many of those graduates are no longer involved in youth ministry; when I think about the challenges, temptations and struggles many of our teens will face in college.
This time of year also brings up the dreaded question: how can we honor the graduates? What can we give to these teens who have been such gifts to our ministry? Here are just a few suggestions to help you honor the class of 2009:
- Bulletin Announcement. Publish the names of the Class of 2009 in the parish bulletin and ask the parish to pray for them.
- Care Packages. Before the recent graduates leave for college, collect their addresses and contact information. Have a group of Core Members and parents put together a Care Package from the parish. Send it to the teens within the first month away from home. If possible, include the Mass schedule and campus ministry information for their college campus.
- Senior Appreciation Dinner. Host a dinner for graduates and their families close to the time of graduation. It can follow the Life Teen Mass, and at that Mass recognize the seniors in front of the entire congregation. Download Senior Appreciation Day to help in planning. (Originally published in Spotlight, Volume 3, January 2008)
- Graduation Gifts. At the Senior Appreciation Dinner (or at a Mass honoring the graduates), present the seniors with a gift from the parish. This gift should be something that will remind them of their faith and their home parish. Life Teen has lots of great (and not too expensive) graduation gifts. Below are just a few suggestions (all are available in the online store of www.lifeteen.com):
- Wall Crucifix. Many of our teens don’t have a cross of their own. This will give them something to take with them as they leave home.
- 100 Things Every Catholic Teen Should Know. While your ministry did a great job of forming the gradates in their faith, there is a chance that they won’t remember everything. This book is a great reference for teens as they are questioned and challenged in their faith.
- Life Teen Journal and Journal Companion. Encourage your teens to make a commitment to prayer through this thoughtful and useful gift.
These are just a few suggestions, I hope they help in honoring the Class of 2009. Know that you (and your teens) are in our prayers daily.