Honoring high school seniors is an important part of every youth ministry. During my time in youth ministry, I’ve seen it done many different ways. Maybe you are trying to do something different this year, or maybe you are just trying to do something at all. Whatever the case, I hope the following three examples of senior recognition are helpful.
Long and Drawn Out
Growing up, senior recognition was a big part of the life of my home church. On Youth Sunday, a Sunday where the youth take over worship, the seniors were the speakers. Depending on the size of the class, we would have the same (or a different) 3-4 speakers each service. They would share about their time at our church, their faith, and what happens next.
Our Sunday Night UMYF Senior Banquet was a big deal too. The junior students and parents were in charge of developing a theme for the evening. Each class (6th-11th grade) was responsible for a type of food (entree, salad, drinks, dessert, etc.) for a huge potluck. Parents and family members of seniors were invited to dine with their students. For my senior banquet, the theme was Friends. They played the Friends theme song (too much) and all the seniors sat on huge couches in the front.
The programming on Senior Banquet night was always a blast. 2 or 3 junior class MCs were chosen to host the event (and given live microphones — kind of a scary idea). Each senior was recognized, and a letter from the family (often funny and heartfelt) was read for each senior. During each senior’s letter, baby pictures of the current senior appeared on screen. Each senior then received a Bible with his or her name engraved on it. Lastly, everyone gathered in the middle with all the parents and youth to lay hands on the seniors for a prayer.
This version of Youth Sunday and Senior Recognition was by far the most involved, but it was always so worth it. It took a great deal of planning, but with the right parents and students (your type As), it always went off without a hitch.
A Little Short
When I started working at my current church, Senior Recognition occurred separately from Youth Sunday. Youth Sunday (which featured senior speakers, like above) was the third Sunday in May. Senior Recognition occurred on Mother’s Day. I have no clue why.
On Mother’s Day, during the 9am hour (we have three services every Sunday, two traditional services a 9am and 10:30am, and contemporary at 9am), we set the gym up with round tables, chairs, and breakfast. We invited all seniors and family members to come and celebrate. We started eating at 9am. After everyone was done with food and conversation, for about 15 minutes, the Director of Youth Ministries shared brief remarks. Each senior was given a gift afterward (often a book and a Bible).
That was it.
Just About Right
Last year we tried something new. I know. Crazy. But we decided to have Youth Sunday and Senior Recognition on the same day. Not during a worship service. Who knew?!
We sent out invitations to seniors and their families for a Senior Lunch in the youth area immediately following worship. We decorated the youth area with round tables, place-mats (made especially for that day), and centerpieces. Our church kitchen staff catered the event with BBQ and we all ate together in the youth area.
For the programming, I got up and shared a bit about what the class has meant to us as a staff and to the church. We had a gift for each student as well as a personalized card (a devotional book and pocket NT). We called each student up to receive the gift and tell us where they were headed next year.
The coolest part of this day was when we did something unexpected. Our sanctuary is very tall and has a super cool catwalk above it, where you can look into the steeple and down into the sanctuary. We took our seniors up to the catwalk to look out at Dunwoody and down onto the sanctuary. It was actually pretty cool! It was the unexpected that created a memory.
The most important thing you can do is tell these seniors that you love them one more time. Tell them to keep going to church. Give them a gift. Involve food in some way. Make them feel special. Do something unexpected. Make a memory (like the catwalk). But make sure you tell them you love them one more time. More than that, make sure they know that God loves them infinitely more than they could ever imagine.