Thoughts From the Past Thursday: 5 Tips for Graduation Season

Thoughts from the past ThursdayGraduation season is here (or just around the corner), so I thought I would pass on these tips to successfully navigate these bitter sweet waters.  This was originally posted on May 19th, 2011

It is that time of the year again; graduation season.  As a youth worker, you get tons of invites during this season, and at least for me, it is one of my busiest times of the year.  All the school year programs are winding down, I am deep in summer planning and trip details, and it is when we do our once a year evaluations and youth staff retreat.    And on top of all of that are all of the graduation festivities.  Over the years I have come up with some ways to lighten the load during graduation season, here are a few tips:

1. Arrive 45 minutes to an hour late.  If you have heard one graduation speech, you have heard them all.  And no one is going to quiz you on what the speaker said.  If you don’t believe me, try and remember anything that the key note speaker said at your own high school graduation.  Exactly…the students don’t care about the speeches, and you don’t need to either (unless a student you know is giving a speech).  If you get there in time to watch them walk across the stage and greet them afterward, you are covered.

2. The smaller the school, the longer the ceremony.  Small school graduations are almost as bad as 7th grade girls basketball!  Since there are fewer people, there is a TON more stories, inside jokes, slide shows, and speeches.  And, #1 does not apply, because the students do care about the actual ceremony, and they will notice if you are not there the whole time.  So you have to just endure it, but block out at least 3 hours.

3.  Family parties are way more important than the formal ceremonies.  Sooner or later you will come to a place when you can’t make it to all the graduation festivities; so when you have to choose, choose the family party first.  If you are invited to the family party, it means there is a real relationship there and they were not just fishing for a graduation present.  So do everything in your power to make the BBQ.

4.  Divide and conquer.  We hit this wall a few years ago, we had so many invites it was physically impossible to attend them all.  That year my wife and I both attended 4 graduations each, and never together!  So, divide your volunteer staff up among parties and ceremonies, and send your regards with them.  Chances are a lot of students know the volunteer leader better than they know me anyway, so strategically divide up and cover them all.

5. Picture slide shows are not worth it.  We broke this tradition a few years ago, and caught some grief for sure.  Yet, the only two people that truly care about seeing the baby picture morph into the senior picture is Mom and Dad, not your entire congregation.  And despite your best effort, you will always leave someone out, or the picture won’t scan right, or they will send it to the wrong email, or… you get the idea.  It is a ton of work, the graduates themselves are typically embarrassed, and most people just endure it.  Definitely acknowledge them in church, just leave out the slide show.

There are my top 5 tips for the graduation season.  What is your tip?

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Posted on May 9, 2013, in Thoughts From The Past, Youth Ministry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Brian-

    This year, we are asking the parents of graduates to participate in a blessing ceremony on the first Sunday in June. There are several students that we’ve not seen in years, and as you said in point 5, this is tricky.

    Because we are moving towards a “milestones” family ministry model, this blessing is designed to put the responsibility for recognition back to the parent, and off of us.

    Great post.

  2. Brian-

    There are fewer things in student ministry that I hate more than navigating these types of events. Kids that have had zero connection with the church or youth group, despite efforts to reach out coming to the service for us to talk about…and most of the people in the pews have never seen these people before. It’s frustrating. And, I’ve had enough.

    This year, we are asking the parents of graduates to participate in a blessing ceremony on the first Sunday in June. We’ve communicated to parents via email and I’ll be following up by pone next week. My hunch is, the ones that lack connectedness will not participate.

    Because we are moving towards a “milestones” family ministry model, this blessing is designed to put the responsibility for recognition back to the parent, and off of us.

    Great post.

    • John, I totally understand where you are at. I have had similar frustrations with students that aren’t that involved anymore, and we stopped doing the acknowledgement from the main stage for the very same reasons you mentioned. I think it is great to put the responsibility back on the parents. Let me know how this goes for you.

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