This post was originally published in March 2011.
Fairly soon the seniors in your Young Life club will be graduating. What's the best way to honor and celebrate them?
Some male leaders in our area have a tradition of holding a "Blessing Service" for the graduating senior guys. They got this idea from a book called The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley. The YL leaders send a letter to the fathers of the senior YL guys. A few weeks later they hold the ceremony.
I've seen similar ceremonies done in other Young Life areas. Depending upon how many graduating seniors are in an area, some do area-wide ceremonies. If there are enough, you could host a ceremony only for seniors from one school.
Rule Of Thumb
If you want each senior to get a chance to be spoken to and about, you need an average of 5 mins/senior. 12 seniors= 1 hour. Anything over 20 seniors will probably take too long and should be divided into a smaller group.
Although the letter below is particularly designed for guys, I have seen these services done for both guys and gals. Some have had parents come and give the blessing. Others have been given by the Young Life leaders. If you were to do a "Guys only" blessing service, be sure to account for those guys who don't have a dad. In our culture where many fathers are not involved in their sons lives, you would need to make a decision as to if you would invite the mother to give the blessing, or another male family member, or the male YL leader.
How To Give A Meaningful Blessing
If you choose to do something like this in your area, I would coach whoever is giving the blessings to prepare well by choosing a few specific things to share. I have watched ceremonies happen where one senior gets spoken about for over five minutes with well prepared and meaningful blessings. The next senior gets only one minute of poorly prepared thoughts.
Help your leaders/speakers prepare by giving them a loose structure:
- A story that is either funny and memorable or meaningful. It can be about a shared experience with the speaker and senior or one that happened in the senior's life that describes their character.
- 2-4 Character traits that you have seen exhibited in the senior's life (ex: honesty, courage, integrity, unselfishness, leadership, perseverance, etc...)
- A Bible verse that describes their life or that is your prayer for them. A thoughtful prayer for them.
- Specific things you are actually praying for God to do in and through them.
Here is a sample letter you could mail to parents. Feel free to copy, edit and use it.
Dear Dads of High School Senior Guys,
I feel so honored that we as Young Life leaders have been privileged to be involved in your son’s high school years. I love these guys so much and desire to send them off well as they become men and head out into what is next in their lives after high school. I would love to invite you to a “blessing service” for your sons on _______ at the home of _____________.
Working with kids over the last 20 years, and being both a father and a son, I can tell you how valuable a parent’s blessing can be and how hurtful it is when it is absent. The idea of blessing is found in both the Old and New testaments and is a longing that is deep inside of each one of us. I have copied a chapter of the book, The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley to help you better understand what is meant by blessing in the Biblical sense. I highly recommend the book to all parents. You can order it off Amazon.com.
During our time together we will focus on two elements of the blessing: “A Spoken Message” and “A Special Future.” We will eat and fellowship and begin a ceremony of verbally blessing our kids. Part one would be a chance to tell them how proud you are of them and how much you love them.
Part two is a chance to speak a vision for their future into their hearts. During this part you can recognize how God has gifted them uniquely and how you have seen them grow and mature and how you see them successful in the future. You can speak words of praise, words of truth, scripture, however you feel led. The principle is this: I love you; I believe in you, I am committed to you as a father.
I know this may be difficult for some us for a number of reasons. If you have never had the blessing from your parents, it is sometimes difficult to give it to another. You may feel regret, wishing you had more time as they are now about to leave home. Whatever the case I promise you it is worth it to your son to take part in this with them.
So here is how it will work: RSVP by email to ______so we can have the proper amount of food/drinks.
4:00pm- Dads arrive with a steak for you and your son (you two go pick it out together)
4:30pm- Cook, Eat and fellowship
5:00pm- Time of blessing (Each parent will have 5 minutes to publicly speak their blessing)
6:30pm- Prayer for these men
I suggest that dads write out their blessing to their sons. This could be an emotional time so having it written down will help you say all you want to say. It will also preserve it for them in the future. If dads are unable to be present I recommend a written blessing be sent and I can read it or perhaps a grandfather, a close uncle, or close family friend can step in. You may choose to give a gift as a symbol of this transition to manhood. Suggestions would be, a knife or sword, family ring or things that speak to your son’s uniqueness are also great. But remember, your words are the most valuable thing you can give. If you want suggestions feel free to call me. Each dad will have up to 5 minutes to speak over his son. Hugs, hands on their shoulders looking into their eyes as you speak are all a very valuable part of this experience.
Please comment below with other thoughts or suggestions for how we can bless graduating seniors.