How to Support Graduates in These Uncertain Times

The pandemic experience has led some graduates to reconsider their previously held plans. Some will have no other option but to forego college education in order to avoid debt (already a recognizable hurdle for many young men of color in particular), pursue work and help support their families in this downward-spiraling economy. These changes may come with a range of mixed emotions, from confusion, fear, grief, disappointment and anxiety, to excitement and hopefulness. Regardless, young people desire for adults to bless and encourage their future aspirations and to speak hope into their lives during challenging times.


Take an inventory of your graduates’ accomplishments over the years and create a video, slideshow or even a physical memory book to present at their virtual or at-home graduation. Invite key adults to congratulate them and offer a blessing. Or if local schools are already organizing online ceremonies, host a virtual grad party. Don’t forget a festive backdrop!

Plan digital church events to honor graduates with care and attention to the unique needs of young people facing unknown futures. Check out Fuller Youth Institute’s post on Senior Sunday for more helpful ideas on celebrating graduate achievements, and find suggestions for church rites of passage online at Youth Worker Collective.

Work discreetly with other church leaders to identify families facing economic challenges due to lay-offs. Gather support from the church community and raise funds for scholarships to be given as graduation gifts that focus on recognizing achievements and character development.

Plan for a future celebratory gathering and unofficial graduation with classmates and friends.


These uncertain times evoke a silent but ever present invitation for adults to offer continued support through the transition into adulthood. Persistent encouragement will be especially important as young people face a lack of work opportunities and the possibility of continued social distancing into the fall and beyond.

Look at academic support programs serving the needs of less privileged groups. Refer graduates to programs that provide mentors, host life skills workshops and connect students with resources. You may even help them create a LinkedIn profile or research groups where professionals gather and network.

Many graduates will be moving to a new college or young adult ministry or to the larger adult congregation where they may feel unknown and disconnected. Help guide young people to both form new relationships and maintain their existing relationships with caring adults in order to smooth the transition.

Teach young people about the importance of mentorship, and encourage them to strengthen connections with adults they admire and want to learn from. Invite students to thank adults who have helped them grow. Rekindled connections with old friends and mentors can become lifelong relationships and a community of support for the future.

Encourage your graduates to talk about their future aspirations and dreams, and ask specifically about the support they would like to receive (spiritual, physical, social, vocational discernment and so on.)

Host a virtual workshop on writing newsletters and prayer support cards to keep caring adults updated with a young person’s latest news—they’re not just for fundraising before short-term mission trips!


Kara Powell challenges ministry leaders in this season to look again at our norms and reflect deeply on the ways we celebrate and support young people during important life transitions. Connecting personally, acknowledging growth and achievements, and committing to support beyond graduation are all helpful ways to honor and love our young people as they take their next steps in this changing world. Let’s be an empathetic witness to our graduates’ journeys. As we do, we will help them learn to overcome future challenges that will arise.

Congrats to the graduates of 2020, the ultimate overcomers!

This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Hannah Lee Sandoval
Hannah Lee Sandoval

Hannah Lee Sandoval is a research assistant at Fuller Youth Institute with the LABS (Living a Better Story) project, and an associate clinical social worker at Conscious Living Counseling Center in Torrance, California.