Pastor's Blog

A Youth Pastor's Graduation Survival Guide
3/11/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor Josh Park

Strike up the high school band and let the parking space wars begin because June is Graduation month. Graduation month is that time of year when you say goodbye to your seniors, attend a plethora of graduation ceremonies, swim in an endless stream of graduation parties and eat an all cake diet. Personally this year's graduation month includes 16 hours of graduation ceremonies.

Here are 9 tips to survive graduation season.

1. Be smart with the smart phone
The smart phone has quickly become an essential youth ministry tool and has multiple  uses to help one survive the graduation grind. While many commencement speakers highlight the importance of living in the moment and being present in the present, you can connect with your wife and kids. At least you can enjoy videos of the family swimming while you sit with minimal lumbar support on the stadium bleachers.

2. Point, Click and Post
If you’re making the great effort to support your seniors by attending their graduations you definitely want it to count. The best way to guarantee you presence will be noted amidst the flowers, balloons, grandparents and tassels is to preserve it for all of eternity. Take a pic or video then use your favorite social media app to edit and post it. Tag your graduate and that moment will be waiting to greet them after a full day pomp and circumstance. Then let the like-ing begin!

3. Good company makes good company
Nothing adds more variety to the seemingly cut and pasted graduation ceremonies than the company you keep. Taking other teens along to help commemorate this momentous but entirely un-unique event provides a much needed breath of fresh air. During the endless parade of graduates the teens will snicker at the awkward name combinations, correct the often tongue-tied announcer and assist in the exuberant celebration upon hearing your graduate’s names.

On occasion a parent of a graduate can also provide some levity but be warned; parents are often overcome with emotion and engrossed in the ceremony for two reasons. One, it is their precious child that is graduating at this moment which is the culmination of 13 (or 14) years of tireless parenting. Two, this is the only graduation they’ll attend all year and therefore are completely invested in each speech, award and performance.

4. Smaller class size does not equal a shorter ceremony
Just because the Christian schools only have 19 students graduating compared to the public school’s 500+, it does not mean that the ceremony will be any shorter. No expense  will be spared to stretch out this moment as long as possible. Consequently, you will have to endure baby, toddler, and pre-teen power points of each and every graduate. They will not settle for a commencement speaker who quips, quotes and quits - they will have a pastor who preaches, postulates and prolongs (I am guilty of being one of these pastors). Remember tips 1-3 and be thankful that you have a comfy pew to sit in.

5. Celebrities in the program do not indicate celebrity appearances
If Beyoncé and Beethoven are listed in the program it doesn’t mean they are there, it means they wrote the song that will be sung.

6. Multiple graduations can happen in one night
Be there for the entrance of one graduation then race to make it for the exit of the other. No matter how brief - you were there! Make sure the gas tank is full and see tip #2.

7. Rest assured not everyone can be the greatest
Don’t try to understand the claim made by every valedictorian who will state that they are the greatest class that ever was and ever will be. This claim, which is clearly absurd and completely illogical, will be greeted by loud cheering and thunderous applause. If I ever attend the graduation of the greatest class of all time I will proudly stand and applaud. Until then see tip #1.

8. It means the world
Graduations can be a grind. For your teens and their families it is one of their proudest moments and, believe it or not, they want you to be a part of that moment. What a privilege! You will forever be their "youth pastor" and they will remember that you cared and that you were there!

9. Pray

For the last 4 to 8 years you worked along side each parent to help equip these students for life. Graduation is a great time to pray for each student and ask God to help them build God-centered lives on the foundation that (by God’s grace) you helped establish.

Phil. 4:9 says this, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”

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