Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Powerful Way To Honor Your Graduating Seniors

Before you know it the seniors in your Young Life club will be graduating. One special way to honor and celebrate them is with a "Blessing Service." I've seen this done in very different, yet meaningful ways.

Blessing Service Options 
  • Area-wide ceremonies done with YL leaders speaking over senior leaders.
  • Co-ed ceremonies done with seniors from one high school where both male and female YL leaders share about each senior.
  • Campaigner groups where only dads are invited to share about their sons. 
  • Campaigner groups where both parents are invited to speak over their son or daughter. 
My personal preference is the last option, with a Campaigners group of only guys or only gals and both parents speaking over their child. In our culture, it's becoming less common for both parents to be in the picture, so this allows at least one parent to be there to speak.  

Rule Of Thumb: 12 Max
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 12 seniors will probably take too long and should be divided into a smaller group.

Although I wrote the letter below to the parents of the guys in my Campaigners group last year, it can be adapted for a group of gals as well.

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 10 minutes with well prepared and meaningful blessings. The next senior gets only one minute of poorly prepared thoughts.

Help your leaders/parents 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.
  • Hugs, hands on their shoulders, looking into their eyes as you speak are all a very valuable part of this experience.
Make sure to snap a pic of each parent while they're speaking over their child. Email the parents copies of the picture!

It's also a great chance to take a group photo of your seniors and give them an empty 8x10 frame with a mat they each can sign. Then get photos printed the next day and pass them out at your last Campaigners group for folks to put in their frames. Makes a great dorm room decoration.

Below is an email I wrote to parents. You can also download it here. Feel free to adapt it and use it if that saves you time. -Drew

Parents of the NWYL Senior Guys,

It has been a high privilege to get to know your sons and be involved in their lives throughout high school. I love these guys so much and desire to send them off well as they become men and head into this next season of life.
I would love to invite you to a cookout and a “blessing service” for your sons on Sunday night, May 22nd, at 6pm at the Smith’s home, 1000 Rocky Rd. The Smiths are providing  burgers and hot dogs and I’m asking everyone else to bring drinks, sides, or desserts. Would you please reply to this email and let me know how many in your family can come and what you would like to bring? Siblings are invited as well.
Working with teenagers 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’s absent. I still keep a note in my Bible from my dad that he wrote me many years ago, simply saying these 12 words “Drew, I’m thankful you’re my son. I’m proud of you. Love, Dad.”

After we eat I'd love to spend an hour honoring these senior guys. They don't know I'm asking you to do this so I'd like to keep it a surprise. I'm asking one or both parents of each guy to spend around 5 minutes sharing about your son. With 10 guys, at 5 minutes each, it will take us close to an hour for the sharing time, so please be aware of how long you’re speaking, it’s easy to get long winded when sharing a story. On the other hand, don’t rush. This is a valuable time and it’s important for your child to feel the weight of this moment.
When you share, I would love for you to do 2 things:

1.     Tell them how proud you are of them and how much you love them.
  • Share character traits you've seen him exhibit (honesty, courage, integrity, unselfishness, leadership, perseverance, etc...).
  • Feel free to share a brief story about how you’ve seen those traits be a blessing to you and to others.

2.     Speak vision over them about their future.
  • Recognize how God has uniquely gifted them.
  • Share how you’ve seen them grow and mature.
  • Share who you envision them becoming in the future.
  • If you want to pick a Bible verse to read or a specific prayer you are praying over them, that's great as well.
  • The principle of “speaking vision” is for your son to hear you say ‘I love you, I believe in you, and I’m in this with you.

I know this may be difficult for some for a number of reasons. If you’ve never had a blessing from your parents, it is sometimes difficult to give it to another. You may feel regret, wishing you had more time with your son as they’re about to leave home. You may feel too timid to do this in public in front of other parents. Whatever the case, I promise you it is worth it to take the risk and bless your son. Your words hold immeasurable power!

You may even want to write out your words to read. This could be an emotional time, so having it written down will help you say all you want to say and it will also preserve it for them in the future.

If you are unable to be present, but your son is able to come, would you write down a blessing and email it to me so I can read it over him on Sunday night. You could also perhaps send a grandfather, a close uncle, or close family friend to step in on your behalf.

When you share about your son, I suggest putting your hands on their shoulders and looking them in the eye as you speak to them and not just about them.

Instead of saying, “John has always had a kind heart for people who need a friend.”  Look at John and say “My son, you have always had a kind heart for people who need a friend.”

I really believe this will be such a special night that they’ll remember forever. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Would you email me back by Thursday at noon and let me know how many in your family can come and what food you can bring?

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, the apostle Paul writes, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” Your sons have become so dear to me and I’m thankful for the blessing it’s been to share life with them for these 4 years.

Drew Hill

If you’d like to read more about this concept of giving a blessing, I’ve attached a chapter from the book “The Blessing” by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

If you have another creative way to celebrate this rite of passage with seniors, email me here and I'll add it to the post.

Special thanks to Ken Tankersly, my former regional director, for instilling in me a value to celebrate people well. And another shoutout to my current area director, David Page, for passing along his insights on this blessing service tradition he's done for years. 

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