Celebrating Graduates (The COVID Class of 2020)

in Coaching on May 26, 2020by Keith Parker

The class of 2020 will definitely have a story to tell their grandkids one day. Schools have been creative in their attempts to honor this graduating class, and I’ve also enjoyed seeing the different ways churches have reached out to their grads during this unique season. From the very beginning of the COVID-19, our student ministry team had a soft spot for this Class of 2020. We knew they would be potentially missing out on prom, graduation, their last sports season, and their last band and choir concerts.

With this in mind, we set out to honor the graduating class of 2020. Our plan included the following goals:

  • To make the graduates feel loved, valued, and cared for by going the extra mile.
  • To encourage a smooth transition to our young adult ministry as a clear next step.
  • To facilitate conversations and connections with parents who are also mourning the loss of senior year.

These clear goals helped us develop our plan to honor the Class of 2020 in the following ways:

Personal Visits – One aspect of caring for our grads we knew we wanted to implement was a personal visit from the leader of our Young Adults Ministry (myself) and our High School Pastor (Isaac). We are in a rural area and we draw students from about 25 high schools, so we knew this would be a massive undertaking, but we felt the power of presence and the visual illustration of the high school ministry and young adults ministry working together would be powerful. 

We grabbed our database, confirmed which students we wanted to honor (students who had been to one of our events in the last year or served in one of our ministries), and made a plan. We reached out to tell families we would visit on a Monday or Friday and asked them to confirm which day worked best. Then we mapped out the locations and set our course. 
Over the 2 days, we traveled to 41 homes, totaling 269 miles and over 16 hours of road / visit time. At each home, we did the following:

  • Visited with the grad and parents when we could
  • Asked about their future plans
  • Gave them the gift (more info on that below)
  • Invited them to join our young adults ministry
  • Prayed over them

A Care Package / Gift – We had a lot of discussion about what would be best to show our grads and parents we cared, but ultimately we landed on a small care package, neatly wrapped up in ribbon and tied together. The care package included the following:

  • A letter from the two ministers involved congratulating them and encouraging them to next steps
  • A journal / notebook embossed with the church logo
  • A custom pen with our church logo
  • A box of Whoppers with a tag saying, “As far as adventures go, you’ve got some WHOPPERS ahead of you.”
  • 5 Days of Devotionals for Grads and Parents to do together (more info below)

Devotionals Designed for Grads and Parents – Included in the care package was a set of five 5.5×8.5 postcards. Each postcard was a daily devotional designed for graduates and parents to do together. We knew that parents were struggling as much as the graduates themselves, and we wanted to create a space for parents and grads to talk and have spiritual conversations.

The five postcards also followed our church’s Discipleship Strategy and language, which defines a disciple as someone who puts Jesus first, loves others, shares everything, and is fruitful. We felt this was the most effective way to continue pointing students back to our mission.  You can download those postcards (editable) HERE.

Honoring Grads in our Online Service – The Sunday after we made deliveries, we honored our graduates (both college and high school) in our online services. We had the standard slideshow that many churches utilize, but we also had a graduate read our Scripture before communion and share a reason they are thankful for God’s love. This was just a simple way to engage graduates in the online service.

Grads / Parents Zoom Call – We invited parents and graduates to join us on Zoom for a fun night of connecting, laughing, and meeting some of the young adult leaders. During the evening, we polled parents and students about how they were doing with this strange end of the school year, played a couple games including The Grad Connection (think Love Connection but with Grads and Parents), shared a devotional thought, and introduced the graduates to the young adult leaders and some of our core students.

Clear Summer Plans to Integrate Grads into Young Adult Ministry – Even though much of the summer is up in the air, we still wanted to capitalize on the short amount of time we have with the graduates and the young adult ministry before they all go back to school. So, we made some summer plans to give our graduates and young adults a place to connect and something to look forward to. We know many of these meetings may continue to meet online, but we’re going to do everything we can to get these folks connected. Our summer plans include:

  • A “gathering” on May 31 for grads and young adults to meet one another and connect. This may become a drive-thru to get their books for our summer studies, but we’re at least trying to meet up.
  • Our Rooted study (something we do with adults in our church) for grads and young adults to take during the summer, which will end right before they all potentially go back to school.
  • A study called Fruitful for those who have already been through Rooted. Fruitful is our brand new follow-up to Rooted that we’re very excited about.

This has been a unique year for sure, but creativity often comes from difficult seasons. I’d love to hear how you honored your graduates this year.

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