Every year to commemorate the graduation of our seniors we have a grad dinner. We have it potluck style so that we can make it free for everyone to attend, and we have it at a beautiful banquet hall that the owners let us use for free (the owners attend our church and are huge supporters of our youth ministry). We also have it either in late April or early May so that we do not overlap the other school banquets, events, and grad parties. We invite the entire church to this event plus any family that the grads want to come. This was our 6th year doing a grad dinner, and it has become a fun and encouraging night for our grads and their parents. I feel like I fumbled through the night the first few years, but after a few years of “practice” I think we have it down.
Here is a quick rundown of how we ran the evening this year.
Structure of the Evening:
- Welcome/Opening Prayer (I usually have our senior pastor say the opening prayer)
Eating (grads and their tables eat first)
-during this time
1) Everyone can write a message to the grads in their journals we have set up for each graduate at a table with a 8×10 silly photo of them.
2) Everyone can also fill out the Grad random facts game sheet that is at their tables. I asked each grad to submit 5 random facts about themselves.
Show Grad Montage Video
This video is basically a picture slideshow of all of our graduates. Months before I asked for the students and their parents to submit 20 pictures each to be in this video. The first year I did this dinner I just told everyone to submit pictures and I spent countless yours looking through piles of pictures and trying to pick out 20 myself. I now ask the families to do that. That way they have complete control over what pictures are in the video.
Bring the grads up front and interview them
- During this time we give out the answers to the grad random facts trivia
- Then I ask each graduate to give their name, tell a random story for high school, and tell any future plans that they have. (I used to not ask this question because I did not want to put any more pressure on them, but I got a lot of complaints from the congregation for not asking)
- All of the graduates know all of the questions that I am going to ask them ahead of time.
Quick message to the grads from me (youth pastor)
The main jist of the message:
Look out across this room. This is your church family that loves you so much that they came out in the rain on a weeknight in support of you. no matter where you go in life this will always be your church family. You may be graduating out of high school and The Underground. BUT not out of your church family. REMEMBER that you have this support group and that we are always just a phone call or Facebook message away
Quick message to the congregation from me (youth pastor)
The main jist of the message:
Look @ these grads. They are our responsibility. Pray for them. Send them letters, call them, facebook them, send them food. Ramen noodles are amazing and very cheap! Remind them that they are loved and appreciated.
When you leave tonight you will be given 3 gifts:
1) DVD of tonight’s video: to remember where you have come from and that all of you have a loving family who have invested in you and will always be there for you
2) Journal: For you to read and remind you that whether you stay in Ship, move out of state or halfway around the world, you always have a loving church family that is praying for you.
3) Bible: may you always be men and women of the word. May you read it, study it, and live it out every day of your lives.
- I have the parents surround the graduates, then the rest of the church surround them. We then pray for the graduates and the parents. This is a powerful time.
Take a group picture
- I have found that I need to put this into the schedule of the evening or else it can be forgotten in the busyness of the night
I also have a moment for our senior pastor to speak to the grads during the evening.