By Carol Smith, Youth Director
Looking back to your senior year can bring up many emotions. Some look back with nostalgia, “best year of my life”, while others couldn’t wait to get done and vividly remember “senioritis.” Whatever your memory of your last year of high school is, we know that it is the mark of rite of passage into the beginning of adulthood. With each stage of life comes something that signifies the end of one thing but the beginning of something new. This year our seniors had many things taken from them that they had planned for, looked forward to, and were ready for; proms, trips, graduation ceremonies, grad parties, and just a sense of comradery with shared experiences with their classmates. And yet it looks different now. The question is, “what do we do about it since we cannot change it?”
My first response is “I don’t know.” But when I think about it deeper, a few things come to mind. We can respond to our graduating seniors with a few ways to help in these uncertain and unusual times.
Empathy: None of us have experienced exactly what our students are experiencing right now. Some have had their senior year cut short for a variety of reasons; drafting to the armed forces, not getting the grades, unexpected pregnancy, and a variety of other reasons. But none of us have experienced something like our seniors have this year. Still many of us have had things end early, things taken from us unexpectedly, and have had to grieve. Empathy allows us to give permission for grief for our students. Paul reminds us to “rejoice with others when they rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Encouragement: I was reading in Hebrews the other day and saw this verse “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (vs 24) and it continued to read, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” (vs 25a). While we cannot meet together in a physical space right now, we can continue to encourage each other. I encourage you to find ways to encourage our seniors through a few tangible ways. (see below)
Prayer: Praying for our seniors is another way we can help our seniors. Letting them know how you are praying for them is an amazing way to encourage our seniors. Setting an alarm and praying for a graduating senior by name and letting them know you are doing that could be an amazing way to support our seniors.
In the recent past (the last 5 years) we have had a display of our graduating seniors and an opportunity to write notes of encouragement, pass along a verse that is helpful, and give advice and then present those notes to them for them to look back upon in the future. The theme this year is FOCUS. While this theme was chosen before this all happened, God has a way of working things out before we know what is about to happen. The Passion Translation of Philippians 4:8 beautifully describes how we can get through this time.
"So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God,[a] praising him always."
This year we would like to invite you to participate by encouraging our seniors through the website (or you can drop off or mail in handwritten notes for our graduating seniors). On the website in May, a gallery of photos of our seniors will be available for you to look through and an opportunity to write notes to them. Even if you don’t have a relationship with a student you will have a chance to encourage them! This gallery will be displayed on the ecclife.net/youth page as soon as we have received their information*. These notes will be collected, printed and distributed to our seniors soon!
Lastly, I am offering all seniors a chance to participate in a rite of passage through Ezer + Co. This is an opportunity to honor the next step in their life while growing your relationship. This can be done with someone other than a parent. If you are close to a graduating senior, take a minute to look into this.
RITE OF PASSAGE EXPERIENCE: Teenagers, especially the Class of 2020, are losing a lot during COVID-19. This is a parent-child experience you can use now to help teenagers reclaim what they’ve lost and celebrate this important milestone.
Yes, this year looks different than we expected. Yes, there are many things to grieve. And yes, we can count our blessings in the midst of this crisis. But we serve a big God who can take what has been lost and make something bigger and better than we expected. We can continue to honor and celebrate our graduating seniors during this time and we can trust in God to multiple our efforts. If you would like a list ahead of time of our seniors, please email me and you can get started now, otherwise, watch for our gallery of seniors on the website soon!
*If you know of a senior who has not filled out the form and sent in a picture, please have them visit ecclife.net/youth to do so! We do not want to miss anyone!