Graduation Sunday!

20 05 2012

At the beginning of 2012, we started a Prayer Partner Program, in which I paired each of our high school seniors with an adult Sunday School class, and asked the adults to pray for that student every week between January 1 and May 20.

Now, you never know how programs like this will work and whether people will get on board. But every Sunday School class immediately became invested in “their” senior. All semester long, congregation members have stopped me to say things like, “Can you introduce me to our senior?” or “Do you think it would be okay to send our senior a birthday gift?”

junior boys

snazzy servers at Senior Breakfast! It will be their turn next year! 🙂

Well, May 20 was today: the official end of the Prayer Partner Program. Every year on Graduation Sunday, we host a breakfast for the graduating seniors and give them a gift. But this year, we added a new twist: at the end of the breakfast, we sent the students to their  Sunday School class to meet their Prayer Partners. The adults then got to pray for their seniors in person! It was a neat way to celebrate this milestone Sunday, both for adults and students alike.

me and the Class of 2012

These guys were sophomores when I first became their youth director: including an interim, I was the fourth person in the position in three years. They were old enough to be disillusioned, and you couldn’t have blamed them for keeping their distance. But instead, they took a chance on me, they welcomed me in, and they let me be a part of their lives. And slowly, they taught me how to be a youth minister.

It happened the first Friday night, when he sent me a message that said, “Yo! Did you get your unlimited texting set up yet?” and then proceeded to blow up my phone with text messages.

It happened one Monday afternoon, when he knocked on my office door and asked if he could help me set the futons up after youth group the night before. Somehow along the way, we ended up reading the Book of Ezekiel.

It happened one Thursday, when she turned sixteen and drove herself to the church to show me her license.

It happened one Wednesday afternoon, when four of them arrived to help serve Slushies to the kids walking home from school. We had no idea what lay ahead, but they knew they wanted to be a part of it.

It happened one Wednesday night, when two of them stayed after Bible study to tell me that they just weren’t too sure about this whole faith thing. What if we had made it all up?

Over the past two and a half years, I have laughed with them, cried with them, worried about them, prayed for them, celebrated with them, listened to them, talked them through tough times, cheered them on, studied with them, learned from them, and most of all, loved them unconditionally.

They have changed me…for the better, I think. When I plan my lessons, I think about them: how would they interpret this Scripture? how does this relate to what is going on in their lives? if i say one thing, will they hear another? (I try to think about all my youth, of course, but it was my relationship with their class that taught me how to do this.)

They showed me what it means to walk alongside them in good times and bad…how to express that agape love through the power of just being there. And they reminded me that my calling as a youth minister is more about building relationships than about planning programs.

They have offered their own gifts and perspectives to our church, diving headfirst into roles of leadership and service. They have been willing to ask hard questions and think deeply about their faith, and they have sought earnestly to live out that faith. They have supported and encouraged me, shown me grace when I screwed up, and they will be leaving a powerful legacy in the lives of younger students in our group.

It’s no wonder I’m having a hard time letting them go, but I’m also excited to see them stepping out on their own path, and I can’t wait to find out what God has in store for them!

Congratulations, Class of 2012!



One response

20 05 2012

Wow, that made me teary and I don’t even know most of them. What awesome kids—er young adults– they are and how lucky they have been to get to know you!

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