Tip: Schedule a lunch with your Juniors and Seniors.
Moving from a Junior to a Senior is a rite of passage. A couple of years ago, I started something new. I had an amazing group of seniors. Strong in their faith. Leaders, both on campus and in the community. And they were rock solid student leaders within our student ministry. Reliable. Dependable. And committed to their role as student leaders.
And in the incoming class, the same potential was there. The possibility for strong leadership, committed involvement, and growing faith. I wanted to capture their enthusiasm, and channel it for what I though God was doing within the ministry. So a scheduled a special lunch to honor the graduating students and to encourage the rising class of senior.
Here is what I did.
1. Publicly thank the senior class for their leadership and commitment. It’s sometimes difficult to keep your outgoing students. Often by the end of September, “Senior’itis” sets in as they focus on college applications, essays, visits, and SATS. Many of them are working. Some of them are in relationships. And some of them are just plain lost. But when a strong group of seniors come along, their is a significant impact for the culture of your ministry. So in front of the rising class, I wanted to thank our outgoing leaders and express to them just how much I appreciated their commitment and faithfulness. I also wanted the juniors to hear how much I valued the role that seniors can play within the ministry. Strong senior leadership provides a wonderful example that you can be a Christian, attend youth group, serve, and enjoy your senior year.
2. The passing of the torch. I think there is a sense of ownership given when we as youth leaders recognize that student leaders are valuable assets within our ministries. When a strong group of seniors are able to influence younger students with your ministry in positive and uplifting ways, everyone benefits. I wanted the outgoing class to share that responsibility with those who would follow in their footsteps. So I gave the seniors the opportunity to share with the junior what their final year meant for them. What kept them commitment to the youth group and God? What challenges did the face throughout year and how did God lead them through those times? What role did the ministry of the youth group play in their lives this last year of high school? I hope was that the influence the seniors had within the group was strong enough to impress upon the juniors as they began thinking about what their senior year would look like.
3. Seniors in the hot seat. Friendships are vital. We say over and over again how important it is to establish relationships within our ministries. And it’s true. Relationships are crazy important. And it was the relationship between the classes that I wanted to celebrate. So I gave the rising seniors an opportunity to ask questions of the graduates. What were the difficulties being a senior? What about college apps and essays? Senior projects? College Visits? Questions about specific teachers? And then those questions of faith and leadership. It was a chance for the juniors to ask for help, while the seniors were able to share some very real and recent life & faith lessons they learned over the last year. It was a wonderful exchange of excitement and experience.
That first lunch was a special one. But not all lunches are the same. Personalities, commitments, and life impact your student leadership team. My experience is that not every senior class is the same. So if you rely heavily on student leaders to serve in significant ways you need to realize that your end results may not always be the same. (But that is a topic that we will save for another time.)
So as year school year comes to a close, think about how your graduating class might still be able to impact your ministry, and consider what your rising senior might still need to learn or hear.