5 ways churches can celebrate graduates during COVID-19

by David Reyes

Although we have grown accustomed to online church and bible studies and even developed a new routine during the current season, there are many traditions in church life that are much more difficult to dismiss than others. One of those traditions in my church is Senior Sunday.

Many churches take time during May to plan a special graduation service that celebrates the accomplishments of their high school and college graduates and commemorates this important milestone in their lives. Graduation services typically include a time of testimonies, senior picture slideshows, and prayer and commissioning ceremonies followed by a memorable fellowship meal.

This year, although it appears most high school and college seniors may not get to enjoy these traditional celebrations in the same way, with a little creativity churches and youth groups can still take time to honor May graduates and celebrate their hard work and achievements.

Here are five ways you can celebrate your high school and college graduates.

1. Video Tribute – Request from each graduate two to three pictures from either their baby, elementary, middle school, or high school days, and (with basic video editing software) churches can provide a gift and keepsake video to families that shows how each graduating senior has grown up in the church. As a bonus, include video clips from parents and guardians with a personal message expressing how proud they are of their graduating senior. This could be a fun surprise for graduates that can be shared on social media with only a week of planning and basic video editing skills.

2. Study Bible Dedication – A study Bible that graduates can take with them to college or to their new job may be the greatest gift a church can give, and churches can provide a meaningful touch by including a small personal note from the pastor and youth pastor on the opening page of the Bible. During this season, many online distributors and even local stores can still ship orders without issue. And since graduates no longer have any school assignments, they can take advantage of their free time to put their study Bible to use and discover all it has to offer.

3. Senior Sunday Parade – You may have seen videos on Facebook of elementary and middle school teachers driving by their students’ homes cheering and yelling words of encouragement from their car windows. Likewise, church leaders and staff can bring a huge smile to the faces of graduates and their parents by driving by their homes with signs and posters congratulating them on their huge achievement. Churches might even consider opening up the church parking lot with a senior “drive-thru” parade with church family members lining the path with signs that read, “You did it!,” “Congratulations Class of 2020,” or “We are proud of you!” Of course, be sure to practice proper social distancing in all of this.

4. Scholarship Fund – The COVID-19 pandemic has economically impacted every institution in our society, but the people of God and the church have not lost their heart of generosity. The church could easily set up a scholarship fund through a Facebook or Go Fund Me account with plans to dedicate the fund to college-bound graduates whose families have been economically impacted the hardest. Many Christian universities, such as Dallas Baptist University for example, offer matching grants for church scholarships. That means that if your students are committed to a Christian college, the church can potentially double its impact with a church scholarship. I have no doubt graduating seniors and their parents would welcome this kind of celebratory gift from the church.

5. Adopt a Senior – Lastly, to celebrate graduates the church could send a list of seniors to church members and ask church families to “adopt a senior” and send him or her a thoughtful handwritten message along with a small goodie. Churches can ask graduating seniors to provide a short list of their favorite candy, drink, snacks, or meal, and the church members could treat their senior with a small and thoughtful gift. This small gesture will encourage students and remind them of the love and support of their church family during this time.

It goes without saying, but any way that you can celebrate your graduating seniors will be well-received and will remind them of how special the church sees them. In whatever your church decides to do, be sure to include a moment to cover your students in prayer. Our students will never forget the coronavirus pandemic, but with a little effort the church can provide a way so that graduating seniors will always remember how their church celebrated them and commissioned them for the future.

David Reyes
Director of Student Life
Dallas Baptist University