In my little parish we always have some graduates. Several years ago we started getting them little throw blankets that they could take with them, something cozy for a dorm room. We invite the graduates and their parents to the front of the church, drape one of these blankets around their shoulders and tell them “As they go off to wherever life takes them, remember that they are always wrapped in God’s Love and the Love of this Congregation.” Then we pray a blessing over them. It is a beautiful tradition. We have since moved on to creating fleece blankets in their school colors (once we know their college) or finding out their favorite colors so that it is very personalized – and there is a greater chance this blanket will sit out somewhere and be seen. It is a constant reminder that there is a congregation they have been a part of that remembers them.
For blessing prayers, try finding something here at this collection of prayers from Jennifer Gamber, author of “My Faith, My Life: A Teen’s Guide to the Episcopal Church”.
And just so the connection doesn’t end when youth leave for college, check out this great article from Episcopal Teacher about “How to Stay Connected with Church Youth after Graduation.”
Or here is another great article on “12 Best Practices for Communicating with Your Congregation’s High School Grads.”
Many churches complain that they want more “young adults” in the congregation. However, retaining these young adults who grew up in your church, go to college and then come back to the area is a largely ignored area. How does your church approach the young men and women who grew up there but are now on their own? How do you make new, adult connections with them? Here is an article with some ideas around this topic.