Welcome to graduation season! Youth pastors everywhere are searching tirelessly for the best possible gift from the church to honor their graduates. If you’re tired of giving the same thing every year or you’re new to the job and looking to start a new tradition, we’ve got some great ideas for you!
The list I’ve compiled is not comprehensive, by any means. But I hope it provides you with fresh ideas to help families celebrate this milestone and encourages students to remember that they are loved by their church. I’ve sorted the list into three sections and arranged each section from the most affordable gift to most expensive.
Useful Graduation Gifts
(These gifts won’t collect dust on the shelf!)
Consider buying giftcards from Amazon, a gas station, Spotify, iTunes, or Starbucks. Gift card packs work great. Any e-giftcards are great for last minute youth pastors as you can typically print them yourself. If you go with an Amazon gift card you can set your own amount. You might get even more creative and personal by offering some tips on what they can buy to prepare themselves for college with their new gift. Or buy them a subway gift card and let them know that you hope their meal plan lasts.
Now that students are on their own, they might be wondering how they'll survive without Mom's cooking. That's where you come in! This graduation, give them the gift of learning to fend for themselves. Just don't buy them a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook.
Selfie sticks, portable charging devices, and high capacity flash drives! These are awesome, inexpensive gift ideas that your college students will appreciate! PRO TIP: Preload the flash drives with pictures of youth group memories.
I'm convinced you really can't go wrong with the gift of coffee. Let your students feel your love everytime they get to class on time or pull an all-night study session. Buy them a french press and directions for making the best brew. Or get them a bag of some of the finest coffee around. Or get them a thermos for keeping a hot supply of coffee around with them wherever they are on campus.
Other practical ideas:
Of course you can't go wrong with cash but maybe you want something a little more thoughtful. Let's be honest, most of our students will get plenty of cash. Let's give them something a bit more memorable. Here are a few miscellaneous yet very practical gifts. Also consider going to the dollar store and creating your own laundry supply kit. Laundry bags are cool, practical, take up a very small amount of space, and are super cheap. As an added bonus, you can fill them with other gifts or youth group swag! Also, pepper spray seems relatively cheap and a great way to let parents and students know that you care.
Meaningful Graduation Gifts
If you’re going for sentimental or biblical truths, this section is for you!
Bible verse decor
Help students to be constantly reminded of God. There's a lot of value in purposefully designing our homes to be what some call "liturgical spaces." Scripture wall art or something for your desk can also be a conversation starter for sharing your faith. Paper Mountain makes some pretty sweet prints. Decals and stickers can be an even more affordable way to provide a reminder to your students throughout their day. Students can put decals on tumblers, laptops, car windows, and more.
My recommendation is that you pay attention to what your students know and have already been exposed to. Something like Mere Christianity may have been read by your students and who knows, maybe your youth group already did a series on "Radical." Check out the reviews, choose wisely. Write a note on the inside of the cover. If you have time, consider reading the book once and in your note writing down your favorite page numbers or chapters or take a shortcut and google quotes from the book.
Journaling Bible PRO TIP: Last year we paired these with Bible markers and let the church highlight verses and write notes to the graduates in the margins.
Journals appeal to a lot of students. They work for those who like to study, those who doodle, and those who reflect and practice introspection. Write a short devotional on the importance of journaling, print it out and tuck it into each journal that you give out. Buy journal packs or consider a more expensive option. To find more ideas check out Lifeway or Christian Book Distributors. If you want something with a verse on it, they’ve got you covered. Think: Pillowcase with youth ministry logo, travel mugs with youth ministry logo or bible verse, etc.
Fun Graduation Gifts
These might be a little off-the-wall, and you might have to answer questions from your budget committee about why you bought them, but your graduates will appreciate them!
Inflatable lounge chairs and lightweight camping hammocks make great graduation gifts if you've got it in the budget. They're a great way for students to make friends and start conversations.
Other ideas: State Park Memberships, Concert Tickets,homemade cookies delivered to them at school, box-of-the-month subscriptions (these are available for hats, socks, t-shirts, food, and tons more!). Hopefully this post inspires you.
Finally, the best gift you can possibly give them is to consistently remind them that they are loved and valued. Remind your volunteers to keep in touch with them periodically. Put time in your schedule throughout the school year to reach out to them. Ask them how school is going, what church they’re involved in, and what they’re learning about life. Over the holidays, be sure to connect with them face-to-face. Use that time to encourage them and pray for them.
Can I ask you a favor? If you've got gifts that you think need to be added to this list, let us know! Let's continue to be a collective of youth ministry leaders who provide each other with free premium resources.