I have been to more graduation parties than I can count. After hitting just a few you kind of know what to expect. It’s not just food and conversations, there are books to sign, advice to give, gifts to buy, and more. Here are a few tips to get you though this graduation party season.
Gifts for several graduates on a youth worker budget can be tight. In the early 2000s I went to Sam’s Club and purchased calling cards in bulk.
1. Now I buy Starbucks or iTunes and partner it with a note. The gift card is probably not necessary but it is appreciated. If you are looking for a book, check out these.
2. Take a photo with your students. You could take it sometime in their senior year or if you are a planner, get a photo with them in junior high as a freshman year. You will miss a few students if you take the photo several years earlier…but it adorable and kind of funny!
3. If you forget a gift or card just pick a card up from the table when the graduate is not looking and then hand it to him/her and say congratulations. Only do this if you are a horrible person.
The food is super important. Seriously. I have landed at a party where they served mini ham sandwiches and the very next party was serving amazing beef brisket. I am not afraid to ask if they are serving a meal, hors d’oeuvres and snacks or a dessert bar.
4. When you see a grad at church a week or two before their party don’t be afraid to ask what they are serving. Say something like, “Hey, What kind of cake are you having?” and let the conversation happen.
5. When it comes to food and several parties, pace yourself. If you have an idea of what students are serving you could plan your own progressive dinner.
6. When eating outside remember, the ground can be unlevel. Sit on a flat surface or facing down hill. I sat uphill last week and I either felt like falling backwards or like I needed to sit on the front edge of my seat…my calves still hurt.
Every party I have attended so far this year has had a station when I needed to write something about the graduate. That is work for me. Some writing comes natural but being sappy and sweet, not so much.
7. Have some advice ready, maybe 5 to 7 quotes, thoughts, or phrases. You can rotate them from party to party. I know, not very personal but this is not a strength for me. If you prepare now, it will not be so hard on the spot.
8. As you drive from party to party think about the student you are visiting next. Come up with a fun, honoring memory. If that party happens to be one of the few that do not ask you to write advice or a memory now you have one to share in person.
This party is not only for the student, It is also for mom and dad.
9. It might be cheesy but I always spend a little time with the parents and at some point I say, “thank you for all your work, this party is really your party too.”
10. Find out where your graduates are going. Get a college name, an email address, their phone number, etc. This step could help your college ministry or it could be that connection that these young men and women need to stay tethered to your church when they are back in town. My hope is that we are not graduating students but that we are sending students. Stay connected.
Ok, not all of these are super helpful but as a strategic thinker all of these come into play in some way. Bottom line: Celebrate with your students, when they look back on life you will probably be a treasured memory. Thanks for serving and loving teens.