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What Would Be Your Advice To Smart High School Seniors?

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Senior graduation has hit the youth ministry trenches.  Youth pastors are invited to a ton of grad parties, expected to give grad gifts, attend the ever so long grad ceremony, and speak words of affirmation to the graduates.

So let’s say a youth worker is asked to speak at a “secular” senior graduation event and he/she is encouraged to give advice to the graduates right before they hit the real world.  The community and school see him/her as the “youth expert” and are expecting great practical advice.  The school and community respect and like the youth worker, however they made it very clear they don’t want any church/Jesus/God related stuff in the talk.  What advice should a youth worker give high school seniors in a secular context?

My Advice To High School Seniors:

Friends–  Choose your friends wisely.  Seniors need to know that they are the average of the five people they spend the most time with. Surround yourself with people who are socially savvy, have a call, and know how to laugh.

Learning–  Absorb everything.  Enjoy studying.  Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosophier, believed one of the highest level of pleasure was contemplation.  One of the two components that are fundamental to enjoy life and feel good about yourself is continually learning.  If you can’t find the type of mentors that you’re looking for in a person, find them through books and don’t rule out the latest and greatest.  Top 3 books every senior needs to read:  (1) Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics (2) CS Lewis – Mere Christianity (3) Benjamin Franklin – An American Life

Character–   Your character is everything!!  Your repetition either breaks you or helps you.  Character is like your credit rating.  Character takes years to build, but seconds to destroy.  Character is a testimony of formed habits.

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.

– Aristotle

Serve–  The second component that is fundamental to enjoy life and feel good about yourself is serving.  Serve at a local church, homeless shelter, tutoring center, community center, local library, and/or retirement home.  Be intentional to volunteer for a non-profit.

Travel– Every high school senior should take an extended trip outside of the USA. The only way to really have a sense of how the world works is to see it yourself.  Cultures matter.  Most American don’t travel.  Experience other traditions, music, climate, religions, people, languages, and foods.  Travel doesn’t have to be expensive and is very educational.  Also make sure to travel lightly.


I believe youth pastors will need to get better at creatively communicating the Christian life to a generation that doesn’t give a rat’s foot about the authority of the Bible, church, and Jesus.

So what would you say to a smart unhcurched senior?  What topics and issues would you address in your talk?


About Jeremy Zach

Orange XP3 Specialist | Youth Worker | MDIV | Hot Sauce Addict | Dr. Dre Beats Lover

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  1. I think your point about travel is one of the most important ones. In the UK, it’s extremely common for students to take a year out (known as a gap year) before going to university. This often involves travelling overseas, including some kind of missions work, regardless of whether they’re a Christian or not.

    I think this is such an amazing opportunity to experience other people, cultures, food, etc and tends to result in much more well-rounded young people. Travel also seems to result in people (not just youth) who are more compassionate, loving and accepting of others.

    On the Christian side of things, it’s been my experience that Christians who have traveled overseas are less judgmental of others with alternative lifestyles and tend to have more of a focus on the poor, hungry, etc, whereas those who don’t tend to leave their home town are those who focus more intently on things like homosexuality, Harry Potter, etc. I know that’s quite a broad generalisation, but I’ve seen it be the case in so many people, both in the UK and US.

  2. a really great post jeremy. i’d suggest alexis de tocqueville’s democracy in america as an alternative to franklin only because of the weight of what being an american is all about..its a bigger book, but i think sheds a lot of light on the idea of what a free human being is all about.

    and i also agree about travel abroad. one of the best programs that will leverage in a huge way is rotary international’s long and short term exchanges.

    but yeah..thanks for this real wisdom.

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