A few years ago, our goal was to have at least one of our adult staff or volunteers at every one of our graduates’ parties. As our number of high school seniors grew, this task became more and more challenging … and exhausting. Seriously, at one point we plotted all of the parties on maps using color-coded pins for different dates and divvy-ed them up to our team. (You did not want to miss the meeting where we picked/assigned parties.) After one particularly frustrating year where we busted our behinds to get everything right, we still ended up missing a party – and we felt terrible. So (with the help of our buddy Dustin) we decided to change our strategy.
Instead of driving all over the world going to every senior party, we decided to host a big graduate bash for all the seniors and their families at our house and bring the seniors and their families to us.
Please pardon our arrogance, but the idea was brilliant.
We grilled burgers, listened to music, played games in the yard, enjoyed great connections with our students and their families, and generally had a blast. Over the years, we added some cool elements:
- Parents wrote letters to their students and sometimes read them at the party.
- Our youth staff and volunteers wrote letters to the students.
- We gave cool graduation gifts. Sometimes we gave terrible gifts because we forgot to order them until the day before the party.
- We invited students from our college group to “crash” the party and invite the graduates to their next event.
The graduate and family cookout legitimately became one of our favorite events of the year.
But we continually struggled to know what to say during the party. We knew we wanted to keep it short but meaningful. But we’re preachers, and short isn’t really what we do. 🙂
Over the years, we’ve collected and massaged our list of “Top 10 things Every Graduate Should Know,” and we’d like to share them with you.
10. College squirrels are different than neighborhood squirrels. They’re not afraid of humans. Sometimes they’re bullies.
9. Make friends with campus police. You will park illegally at some point in your college career. Probably this semester.
8. Eating fruits and vegetables helps your body function properly. Yes, we mean pooping. NOTE: Ramen noodles do NOT qualify as fruits or vegetables.
7. Say “thank you.” Gratitude is a lost art in our culture.
6. Carry an umbrella. It’s easy to spot freshmen – they never carry umbrellas. Don’t be a freshman that gets caught in a storm without an umbrella.
5. It’s OK to get homesick. Send a text, make a video call, or take a drive home. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Embrace failure. It’s inevitable, so learn to learn from your failures instead of being crippled by them.
3. Don’t skip class … much. Some days are too sunny to be spent indoors. But skipping class is almost always a bad idea.
2. Forge your own path. Besides God, no one understands the plans God has for you like you. Always seek good counsel, and be respectful even if you disagree. But do things the way God wants instead of what others want.
1. Follow hard after Jesus. When you’re at your college graduation party, if you want to look back over your four (or six in Tim’s case) years of college with a sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose, pursue Jesus and a life that reveals his kingdom. You’ll have no regrets, and you’ll be living an amazing story.
We love how Romans 8:14-15 in The Message speaks to the excitement of this season in students’ lives:
God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”
So love your graduates well, friends. Even the ones that you’re not sad are graduating. You’re a part of their amazing story too. Help them soak in the moment while looking forward to what’s ahead.
What are your own tips for graduating seniors?
-Tim and Tasha