A Powerful Way To Honor Your Graduating Seniors

March 17, 2016

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

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

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,
  • 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 8×10 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

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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