To put it bluntly, our high school seniors have been robbed.
You spend your entire school career dreaming about all the milestones of senior year. We dream of our senior prom, spring break, getting into university, being considered for an athletic scholarship, and finally walking across the stage to receive a diploma. Schools across the nation are closing for the rest of the school year, which means your seniors are grieving. Maybe they always dreamed of playing college baseball, but now their season has been canceled and scouts aren’t coming out. Maybe they were just about to get up the courage to ask someone to the formal, and the school just announced that it’s canceled. Maybe they were saving up for their senior trip, but they just got news they’ll be staying home instead.
This reality hurts. That is why it’s crucial for us to support our seniors during this difficult season for them. Here are three ways to serve seniors during the pandemic.
Listen to them.
It’s easy to try to diminish their distress while pointing out the possible bright-sides of having senior year away from the classroom. Fight that urge. Just ask them how they are doing. It’s pivotal that you’re present in their lives — even when you can’t be there in person. Listen to their words without interjecting easy answers for complex problems. All pastors love solving problems, but fight your natural desire to solve their problems right away. Give them time. There is no magical motto that’ll make it better. Just be an empathetic sounding board for them. After actively listening, you’ll eventually earn the right and rapport to rally around them. With time, they’ll invite you into the process of picking up the pieces.
Graduation is still a celebration.
You need to be really intentional about how you celebrate your seniors this year. Really reflect on good gifts and ways to shine a spotlight on them. They may have their graduation ceremony on a zoom call. Thus, it’s paramount that your ministry makes a big deal of all their accomplishments. Take out an ad in the paper, brag about them on your instagram account, give them thoughtful gifts, and pray that you may be able to celebrate in person. Even if this whole thing drags through the summer, plan a party for the moment that the pandemic is over. Don’t let them feel overlooked.
You’ve listened to their hearts and let them know that you’re celebrating them. Now it is time for you to empower them. Ensure that they can see their resilience and significance. They have the power to find some good in a bad situation. These are the same students who have built massive online audiences with their sense of humor. They’re innovative and creative. Give them outlets to show that off to your community. This is a time for your generation to make an unforgettable mark on society. You get to serve with your senior year. You get to innovate and create. Remind them that their purpose is so much bigger than the pandemic. They’ll rise above it.