It’s that time of year again.
Seniors are getting their caps and gowns. They’re making final decisions about where they’ll go or what they’ll do in the fall.
It’s an important time of commemoration and celebration as they turn the page to enter the next chapter of their lives.
That’s why churches across the country will have a special time in their services to honor their graduates.
And the question on many youth pastors’ minds is simply this:
What should I get my graduating seniors?
When one of the youth pastors I coach asked me this question, I knew that I needed to write a post about it.
For many youth pastors, it’s a tough question to answer. You don’t want to be too predictable, but you also want your gift to be meaningful. Maybe most important, you don’t want your gift to be cheesy or mediocre.
You know how that goes. You hand the student their gift during the service and they forget it on the pew when the service is over. That’s how much it meant to them: not much.
To make matters worse, when you call the student to tell them you have it for them, they reply, “That’s okay, you can keep it for someone else next year.” They see the gift as so worthless that they won’t even take the time to drive to the church to pick it up.
It was those kinds of gifts that led Jon Acuff to weigh in on this topic. He says, “Let’s all commit that we won’t buy our graduating seniors mediocre gifts.”
I agree. But I also know that what you decide to give your graduating seniors depends largely on your budget and the precedent that has been set in previous years.
With all of that in mind, I want to suggest a few gifts for you to consider.
Here you go…
7 Gifts That You Can Feel Good About Giving Your Graduating Seniors
1. Pack of Gift Cards
Every student needs money or will need money. Why not hook them up with a pack of gift cards for gas (to come home, of course), food (restaurants are better than grocery stores), music (a Spotify subscription might be better than iTunes), entertainment (Netflix or Fandango), and Starbucks. That’d be a great gift pack for a graduate. And, it’s one they’d actually use.
2. Word Cloud
I got this idea from something Derek Parson does for his volunteers, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do it for graduating seniors.
Here’s what you do: Give several people – current leaders, former volunteers, parents, pastors, teachers, coaches, other students – a sheet of paper with your graduates’ names on it. Ask those people to write down as many positive words as they can think of to describe each graduate.
3. Personalized Yeti Cup
I’ll admit that I don’t understand the popularity of Yeti merchandise. It seems overpriced to me, but for some reason, the brand has gained quite a following. Apparently the quality of their stuff is really good.
You can find people on Etsy who are able to monogram and personalize Yeti cups for your students. I guarantee they’ll be pleasantly surprised if you present them with a personalized Yeti cup for their graduation gift.
4. Monogrammed Towel or Blanket
Everyone needs towels and blankets. Add a personal touch to those things by simply having your students’ initials monogrammed into them. Here’s the thing: the font selection is important for this. Don’t give guys a blanket with curly cursive letters. They’ll never use it.
In fact, if you can split it up, I would get the guys a towel and the girls a blanket. Girls don’t mind the cursive, but for guys I’d choose a more straightforward, thick, solid font because it feels more masculine.
If you ask you ask around your church, you might even be able to find someone who knows how to monogram (or at least someone who knows someone who knows how to monogram), and that will likely save you quite a bit of money.
This devotional book is like an updated, expanded version of the old One-Minute Bible by Doug Fields. I’ve given these to many graduating seniors – both guys and girls – and the response has always been very good. In fact, on many occasions, when those students come home for Fall Break they tell me that this book is the first Bible/devotional that they’ve actually started and stuck with for more than a month.
To add a personal touch, write a personalized note on the inside cover.
6. Highlighted Bible
Instead of just getting students a Bible, a better gift would be to get parents, pastors, adults, and leaders to go through each of the Bibles and highlight their favorite verses. Additionally, you could even ask them to write inspirational notes for the graduates in the margins.
7. Group Pic
This idea is straight forward: Print a group picture from a recent event. But that’s not all. There’s one more step.
Get it framed on an oversized mat, and have different people write inspirational notes to the graduate on it. You don’t want it to be too big; it should be just big enough for a student to put on a desk in their dorm room.
Bonus 1: Books
I don’t think your students necessarily want a book, but if you feel like that’s what you should give them, here are a few books to consider:
Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff
How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski
Welcome to College by Jonathan Morrow
Considering Christianity by Trevor Hamaker
Crazy Love by Francis Chan (for guys)
Popular by Tindell Baldwin (for girls)
Bonus 2: Audiobooks
If you’re students aren’t necessarily the reading type, you can always opt for a subscription to Audible.com. They’re likely to spend a lot of time on the road in the coming year, so a few audiobooks on their phone wouldn’t be a bad idea.
What you do is up to you. There are plenty of options to both surprise and satisfy your students. If you have enough money in your budget, you could even combine some of these ideas. For instance:
• Put gift cards inside a Yeti cup.
• Give them a blanket and a Bible.
• Give them a word cloud and a Simple Truth Bible.
Any and/or all of these things would be great gifts for graduates that you can feel good about giving them!
If you need a sermon to preach on Graduate Sunday or if you’ve been invited to speak at a baccalaureate service, head over to Download Youth Ministry and get “Be Strong & Courageous.” It’s a full-text sermon (2,300 words) based on Joshua 1:6-9 that will inspire and challenge students to:
• Remember who God has called them to be.
• Remember what God has called them to do.
• Remember that they have what it takes.
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