Tip: Go to the Graduation Parties!
There was a time in my ministry career where it felt like all we did, all weekend long was go to graduation parties. AND I LOVED IT!!
Graduation parties have become part of the high school experience. You survive four years of high school. You earn your diploma. You have a party!! And I love attending these parties and it’s not all because of the food!
1. It’s humbling. You may not think a graduation party to be something that humbles you, but it can. Especially when the invitation is unexpected. See, if we’re honest, we expect to be invited to a party of a student who attends your church, participates in your ministry, and eats all the food out of your fridge. But what humbles me is when your invited to the party of the student who hasn’t grown up in you church, the student that doesn’t always show up for youth group, the student that you’re not sure your making any difference in their life. I have been invited to a handful of parties for that kind of student. So you go to the party, expecting to say hi, grab something quick to eat, then move on, simply because you don’t know the parents or the family, and sometimes that’s awkward. But it when the parent come up to you and say how thankful they are for what you have done in their teens life… well, that’s just humbling.
2. It’s a reason to Party! Something great has just happened! One of your students is going from high school to college! This is an exciting time! CELEBRATE with them. Often our time spent with students is in teaching, discipline, leading them in worship, counseling, mentoring, and coaching. It’s work. Sometimes hard work. Sometimes rewarding work. Nonetheless, it’s work. But now you celebrate! You let your hair down a bit. You relax. You share stories of retreats and road trips. You laugh. You play corn hole. You simply have a good time celebrating the accomplishment of one of your students.
3. You’re sharing in the life of your student and their family. I almost included this in the paragraph about being humbled. Because while it’s humbling to hear that God has used you in an unexpected way, it’s also humbling to think that you have been welcomed into the family of a student. As a youth pastor, we have tried our best to maintain our open door policy with our students. We want our students to be part of our lives. So they come for dinner, to watch a sporting event or favorite show. They come to talked, hang out, and have fun. They play with our kids, raid our fridge, and clog our toilet. But when a parent/family opens their lives up to you, the youth pastor, it’s a humbling realization. For most of us, youth ministry is our life. We don’t turn it on and off. And when a parent welcomes you into their families lives and you begin to share life with them, well it’s a sweet, sweet thing. For as often as we expect graduation party invites, it is still humbling to be thought of and asked to be a part of this special event in life of that family.
The flip side to this is that there will be many graduation parties that you will NOT be invited to. Why that happens comes with reasons to hurtful to share. So when you are invited, make the most out of it. don’t see it as an obligation or part of the “job.” See it for what it is, and go sand have some fun with your students!