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Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In This Issue

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Featured Article: Making it Special for Graduates-IDEA CONTEST RESULTS

Making it Special for Graduates
Fun Ideas Youth Groups Can Do
for Graduating Seniors and 8th Graders


As the end of the school year approaches, many of us are looking for some fresh ideas of how we can do something special for our graduates. As our seniors leave the group or our 8th graders move on, let's make it memorable!

You know our team here at THE SOURCE loves to regularly provide you with free youth ministry ideas. That's why we asked our EZINE subscribers for their best graduation ideas in the form of a little contest. (Thank you all who sent in your ideas. There were so many good ones it was hard to choose. I had my team just flag their "favorite five" and we tallied the votes. But all were good!) We're posting many of the individual elements we liked, the top five ideas, and a few honorable mentions below.

Even though you might not use these exact ideas, I think they'll get your gears turning.


INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS WE LIKED

It was amazing to see all the fun and creative ideas that came in. Many had similar elements. Some of the basic ideas for ceremonies included the following components:
  • A celebration dinner decorated to the hilt, with great food, beautiful cakes, etc.
  • Cap and gown ceremonies
  • An invitation not only for the students, but to families as well
  • Video of family and friends talking about the graduates
  • People appointed by the family to give a short speech on behalf of the graduate
  • Posters, collages or even entire booths full of memorabilia displayed for each graduate
  • Pictures/plaques of all the graduates with all their names hung in the youth room each year
  • Graduates writing letters to themselves that are mailed to them later in the year
  • A ceremonial reading of "Oh the Places You will Go" by Dr. Seuss
People also came up with some great "senior trip" event ideas:
  • Weekend retreats
  • Bike trips
  • Camping trips
  • Senior NASCAR trip (with pit passes)
  • Senior Disneyland/Disneyworld trip
  • Senior trip to Hawaii
Some of the gifts that were suggested were:
THE TOP FIVE IDEAS
Out of all the ideas, a select few stood out to our team at THE SOURCE. The following five are our top picks:

#1- Senior Night... and Then Some
Submitted by Leo Barnes, Christ Community Church, Zion, IL


JONATHAN'S NOTE: Although we had many people submit ideas about "graduation ceremonies" of some sort, Leo had some very distinctive elements that we loved (for example, bringing the college kids in for a unique portion of the ceremony and the freshman kidnapping). Thanks for the great ideas Leo!

Every year we do the following for our graduating seniors and 8th graders:

In Church: On the Sunday before graduation we bring all of our graduating seniors to the front and I give a short (2-3 minute) talk, followed by a name by name recognition of each senior. As they leave the stage they always receive a book from our pastoral staff, this year it will be Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ."

In Youth Group: That same evening we bill our youth group event as Senior Night. We project a slide show of pictures of the seniors from as many years back during their youth group time as we can. Inevitably, the non-seniors appear in the shots as well and it becomes a great time of looking back and reminiscing. Then, in place of a message from me that evening, we have the seniors all sit at the front of the room and let everyone else share their favorite memories of the seniors. We get a mix of "most embarrassing" stories and genuine encouragement from underclassmen about how some of the seniors have shaped their walk with Christ. We then give every senior a chance to share a piece of advice with the underclassmen. We as staff are always amazed by some of the things we hear/find out that night. Then we take the underclassmen out of the room for an activity and bring in current college students who graduated from our youth group and have them talk with the seniors about the challenges of being a Christian in various college environments. We get more positive feedback from this night than any other night of the year.

Freshman Kidnapping: One of the final tasks of our seniors is to assist with our annual Freshman Kidnapping. With permission from parents, our high school students show up at the homes of our graduating 8th graders at about 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning and pull them out of bed "as is," with some obvious provisions for modesty of course. They then take them out to a local restaurant where our staff are waiting and the church treats them to breakfast. Students talk about their kidnapping experiences for years to come. Once the kidnapping has occurred, the 8th graders are then an official part of the high school youth group.


#2- Senior Retreat
Submitted by youth worker Faye Dykema


JONATHAN'S NOTE: We also had numerous retreat ideas, but our team really liked some of the aspects of Faye's weekend, especially the subject matter they address. Her letter and gift ideas were great as well.

For several years we have taken the seniors on a weekend retreat. We go from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. The weekend consists of various discussions including personalities, spiritual gifts, My Heart Christ's Home, how to survive college, how to get involved in Christian activities in a public college/university, and how to overcome obstacles we will face in our adult lives. We played games, did DDR (dance, dance revolution) and watched movies late at night. And of course, being youth group related, there is always plenty of food.

Two of the highlights of the weekend are giving parents the opportunity to write letters to their teens that share their hopes and dreams, as well as give them an opportunity to share the positives they have seen in their teens. We give this toward the end of the weekend and give the teens private time to read them. We have also encouraged and sometimes provided teens the opportunity to write their thoughts back to their parents.

We also give a gift to the seniors of a CD/DVD that holds photos of the past 5 years of activities. We have the rest of the teens and leaders write parting notes/memories for each senior and add that to the CD/DVD presentation.


#3- Signing of the Wall
Submitted by Barb Harrington, Youth Director, Huron, SD


JONATHAN'S NOTE: Among all the other creative aspects of Barb's ceremony, we loved the signing their wall, a place that graduates can come back and visit for years to come.

We have a night where the parents are invited to join the youth at our SOULED OUT CENTER (SOC). This is a giant skating rink converted into a youth center that our church purchased 3 years ago.

We have a senior ceremony called "The Signing of the Wall". All around the inner rink, there is a 3 foot brick wall. The topic of the night is about laying a foundation to build your faith upon....namely Jesus. We show photo clips of each senior's SOULED OUT moments while they were with us. Yeah, it's teary and emotional, and the parents love it! Each teen is asked to speak for one minute, no longer, (as there might be 20 of them)....they explain their high lights and even a "low" light during their time with us at the SOC. And they thank their parents, not a youth leader, for something significant...even if it is as small as saying, "Thank you for letting me come to SOULED OUT." But the sentiment should focus on a strength the parent/guardian offered.

Then there is the "Signing of the Wall"...each one signs a brick in a designated area for 2007.....and a special song is sung as they do this. This is their signature, stating "I have made the journey through SOULED OUT, and I am stronger in my faith for it". We hope in years to come, as they visit us again, they will look at "their" brick and recall all God did in their high school years! (This could be done in any youth group if the church allows one wall to used.)


#4- Graduation Dinner
Submitted by Canon Anne Taylor, Family and Youth Minister, Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando, FL


JONATHAN'S NOTE: The photo's and DVD were definitely a plus for this idea, but we love the fact that each graduate can invite friends and family to this event. And we especially like how the parents choose a special person to come and speak in the senior's honor.

We invite the seniors for a very special dinner. They can invite 7 guests. I ask their parent to choose a special person to come and speak in the senior's honor. This is a surprise for the senior!

The parents also send in photos from birth through grad picture and we create a great DVD of each senior with music to show at the dinner. The grad also gets a box filled with letters from people that the parents have contacted along with kids in youth group. We also put gift cards in the box, gas cards and other cute stuff for college.

The 9th graders serve at the dinner which gives them a vision for the next 3 years ahead. It shows them the importance of staying involved and giving to your group during the high school years.

On the Sunday before graduation we ask each senior to set up a table of memorabilia displayed in our fellowship hall. This way the entire church sees who is graduating and what they have been involved in during their HS years. The seniors process in wearing their cap and gown, sit in the front row and process out. It is a very special morning for the seniors. I also give them a carnation to wear (of their school color).


#5- Quilt Sunday
Submitted by Lisa McArdle, Youth Director, Healing Grace


JONATHAN'S NOTE: We realize that this might be too cumbersome of a task for a youth group with a large number of graduating students. But for many groups, this will apply. Several quilt ideas were sent in, but we all liked Lisa's the best. It's great having the mother pick out the material for the quilt-this involvement of the parent can make the quilt even more special. We also like how the pastor prays for each of them individually.

For our senior high graduates we have a Graduate Sunday at church where they all come up front and are recognized one at a time. Prior to that Sunday the church ladies make each graduate a quilt (the mothers pick out the material, the pastor picks out a bible verse that is embroidered on the quilts). When each is up front - individually the pastor wraps the quilt around the graduate and prays for them individually. After the service we then have a special cake for them. In the past, the graduates said they have felt very special and felt God's love when being wrapped with the quilt.


A FEW OTHER HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Senior Life Classes
Submitted by Beth Green, Youth Director, FUMC, Decatur, AL
We provide "Senior Life" classes for the graduates. This is usually one night a month for the whole senior year. We have church members who are "experts" in certain areas speak to them about what is ahead in college or life. The topics are: money, banking and finances with a banker; resumes, interview and applications with a human resource manager; alcohol awareness (we use the SAM Spady Foundation DVD); car care and maintenance with a mechanic; first aid and basic health care/ CPR with a nurse; self defense and safety with a police officer; and home repairs with a builder. These classes help prepare these young adults for the "real world!"


Video Wisdom
Submitted by Riggs
I video taped someone from the graduate's family (without the graduate knowing) and asked them for some good old advice or words of wisdom. I met with each person at church or home and let them do the talking. Some of the people were family members that lived in a neighboring town and drove here, to their home town, to tape this.

Before each person talked we showed a series of pictures of the graduate from birth to graduation and then the special person. Not a dry eye in the church that morning.


Senior Bike Trip
Submitted by John M. Gruber, Associate Pastor of Youth and Parents, Christ Community Baptist Church, WA
For the past three years I have taken the graduating seniors on a self-contained bike trip to the San Juan Islands. We park our van at the ferry dock, get on our bikes with trailers and then take a ferry onto the islands. For three days we camp, bike and talk about the past and what is coming. To end off the trip we stay over in a hotel and go to an all-you-can-eat buffet (after three days of eating camping food).

Then I ask them some questions about their youth ministry experiences and have them write a letter to themselves describing where they want to be in six months. Near Thanksgiving I send their letter with a picture I took of them on the bike trip. Many fun memories have come from these trips and relationships have been strengthened because of our time together.

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Something You Can Use: "Blood Diamond" Movie Clip Discussion with Small Group Questions, Bible Passage and Wrap Up

We know how you love free discussion and curriculum ideas. So here is all you need for your programming this week, a Movie Clip Discussion for the movie Blood Diamond recently released on DVD. The topic is Our Heavenly Father's Love for Us

Blood Diamond Blood Diamond
(Warner Brothers Pictures, 2006)

Main Point of Discussion: You have a Heavenly Father who loves you very much.

The Movie Clip: "I am your father."

Blood Diamond is an Oscar-nominated film about illegal or "blood" diamonds that are smuggled out of Africa and sold on free markets worldwide at a tremendous price to the people of Africa. The film is an action packed docudrama, with outstanding performances by Leonardo DiCaprio (Danny Archer), Djimon Hounsou (Solomon Vandy), and Jennifer Connelly (Maddy Bowen). The inescapable theme of this movie is a father's love for his children, and the price he is willing to pay to save them.

The clip we are using for this particular discussion features the climactic scene of an African father named Solomon Vandy, who has pursued his kidnapped son, Dia Vandy, across the continent of Africa in order to save him. Weeks earlier, R.U.F. (Revolutionary United Front) guerillas rampaged into the village where the Vandys lived, murdered many people, kidnapped Dia, and enslaved Solomon to work in the diamond fields. During his time in slave labor, Solomon finds a HUGE diamond and buries it, hoping to dig it up later and use it to "buy back" his son. This scene illustrates the passion and struggle of a father who has risked everything to regain his son.

Introducing the Clip:
Tonight I want to show you a clip from the blockbuster, Blood Diamond. If you saw the movie, you will immediately remember this powerful scene. If you haven't, just know that Solomon Vandy, the African man in this clip, has been in constant pursuit of his son, Dia, since he was kidnapped by R.U.F. guerillas (the bad guys) several weeks earlier. Solomon himself was enslaved by the R.U.F. and forced to work in the diamond fields. He finds a rare diamond worth millions and decides to bury it, hoping it will help him "buy back" his son.

Meanwhile, Dia's kidnappers, the violent militia known as the R.U.F., has brainwashed Dia and turned him into a killer. He is even given a new name, "See No More," and is lied to about his family. His captors have conditioned him to be a ruthless killer. The R.U.F. has made him commit terrible atrocities, to the point where he cannot even remember his former identity, or family.

After his escape from slavery, Solomon chases his son across the continent of Africa, risking his life time and again, to save his son. Take a look at what happens when a father is face to face with a son who hardly remembers the life they once shared together.


Scene Script:

BEGIN CLIP at 1 hour 56 minutes and 30 seconds (Chapter 28)

NOTE: you may want to put the subtitles up on the screen for this clip because you won't want your students to miss a word! The father's words are so powerful but his accent is heavy and may be hard to understand.
    Danny Archer: It had better be there, huh?

    Solomon Vandy: Yes, yes. Here.

    Danny Archer: You got it?! Have you got it, huh?!! (On screen, Solomon pulls the diamond from its buried position.)

    Solomon Vandy: Yes, got it. Oh yes... (On screen, Danny sees Solomon's son, Dia, train a gun on him and his father.)

    Danny Archer: Solomon... (Solomon looks up to see his son pointing a gun at them.)

    Solomon Vandy: Dia. What are you doing?! Dia!! Look at me. Look at me!! What are you doing? (Walking towards his son very carefully...) You are Dia Vandy of the Proumanday Tribe. You are a good boy. You love soccer, and school. Your mother loves you so much. She waits by the fire making plantains and red stew. And the new baby.... The cows wait for you, and Bakwu, the wild dog who minds no one but you. Mmm? I know they made you do bad things. You are not a bad boy. I am your father, who loves you. And you will come home with me and be my son...again. (Dia lowers the gun and then they embrace.)
END CLIP at 1 hour and 58 minutes and 40 seconds.

Transitional Statement:
This clip clearly shows how much Dia's father loved him. Even though Solomon knew what his son had done, he still wanted Dia to come back home and be his son again. He proved that by risking his life to get that message of love to his son.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let's go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we'll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE FOR THE REST OF THIS
MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSION INCLUDING
SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS, SCRIPTURE,
AND A WRAP UP




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