Several weeks ago it started becoming clear that proms were going to be cancelled, graduations were going to look different, and high school seniors- instead of having their diploma handed to them in the traditional way- were going to get the short end of the pandemic stick. My heart broke for these frustrated high school seniors, who've been robbed of a normal, public celebration by a horrific virus.
My life has been devoted to ministering to teenagers. For the last 29 years I have sought to inspire, equip, and unleash teenagers to spread the good news of Jesus through the ministry of Dare 2 Share.
Over the last three decades I've talked to countless teenagers who have struggled through broken relationships, shattered dreams, and sinful choices. When I've talked with these teenagers at our Dare 2 Share events, I've been able to place my arm around their shoulders, pray with them, and do my best to encourage them through whatever their struggle may be.
But this pandemic is a global one and I don't know how to put my arm around the shoulders of the twenty seven million teenagers across America or the one billion teenagers around the world.
My heart is broken for teenagers, as I'm sure is yours. This already-struggling-with-anxiety generation is having their inner pain exacerbated exponentially by the frustration and desperation that erupts from the kind of isolation they are experiencing as a result of this pandemic.
Dr. Harold Koplewicz, an adolescent psychiatrist and president of the Child Mind Institute said this about these teenagers in an interview with Time, “They are stressed now because of the lack of structure of school, missing big chunks of their lives—whether it’s dating, graduation, proms, classes—and there’s worry about their parents’ finances and there’s worry about everyone’s health.”
What teens are going through globally, especially high school seniors, breaks my heart.
And my heart is broken for another reason. My son, Jeremy, is a high school senior this year. I feel bad as a dad because you only get to graduate from high school once. It's just not going to be the same for him as it was for me and my wife when we graduated.
My heart goes out to every high school senior as they try to make sense of this whole thing and every parent and teacher who is seeking to make the best of a sad situation.
About a month ago I began to ask God what I could do to help encourage not just my son, but every high school senior. And the Lord answered my prayer.
The answer came in the form of two words, "Baccalaureate ceremony." According to thespruce.com "a baccalaureate is a non-denominational spiritual service that allows for public school graduates to find spiritual meaning that aligns with their personal beliefs."
Although these kinds of services aren't held as often today, I began to ask myself: What if I was able to help pull together some kind of national baccalaureate service for high school seniors across the nation to encourage and inspire them?
So I went to Mr. Hasz, the superintendent at Faith Christian Academy where Jeremy is graduating this year, and shared the idea with him. He was all in. Then I went to my old friend Allen Weed who runs a music and media ministry to teenagers and youth leaders called interlinc and he was all in too!
It also happens that Allen's ministry provides the number one grad gift in the nation: The gift of music and encouragement, ConGRADulations! These gifts of music have been given to over 1.3 million graduates! Allen told me that he was so excited about the idea of this service for seniors that interlinc was making this service their official streaming event!
Over the last few weeks things have really started to come together. We gave this event a name, "The National Senior Sendoff", secured a website (nationalseniorsendoff.com) and started putting the program together.
It feels like everyone has jumped in to help pull it off!
Gabrielle Odom, a high school senior from Minnetonka High School, who has spoken at many national events, will be doing the senior address. She is a one-of-a-kind teenager who is not only on fire for God, but being used by Him to set teenagers across the nation ablaze with a passion for Jesus! She boldly declared, “A global pandemic will not stop us seniors from changing the world for God!”
Musicians, athletes and ministry leaders are coming out of the woodwork to encourage these high school seniors! For KING & COUNTRY, David Crowder, Bethany Hamilton and others will share words of encouragement on this amazing night.
Tobymac will be sharing as well! Here's what he had to say: "I know the Class of 2020 has looked forward to a prom, spring sports, and graduation. Everything's changed. But where there's change and hard times, there is God and He is going to get us through this."
I will be giving a sermon that night as well. You can be sure that the gospel will be given and every senior and their families will be challenged to embrace the message and mission of Jesus (after all I am "the Dare 2 Share guy!")
The National Senior Sendoff will end with a time of prayer led by my friend Reza Zedah, who happens to be the chaplain for my favorite football team on the planet, the Denver Broncos. Reza, an Iranian born follower of Jesus who converted to Christianity in college, will lead every family watching online in a time of prayer over their high school senior. It will be his prayer and the prayers of these families that will commission these high school seniors for what lies ahead.
The National Senior Sendoff, an inspirational virtual event for High School Seniors and their families during the Pandemic will be held on May 28th, 6:00 – 7:00 pm MDT.
Partners have jumped on board like crazy! They include Dare 2 Share (of course!) Faith Christian Academy, interlinc, Campus Alliance, Pro Athletes Outreach, Sports Spectrum, Promise Keepers, Claim Your Campus, Every Student Sent, Student Leadership University, Go2020, Winter Jam, Colorado Christian University, Lifest, Youth Alive, Assemblies of God Youth Ministries, Reach Out Solutions, Moms in Prayer (there's nothing more dangerous to the kingdom of Satan than an army of praying moms!), How to Life Movement and a growing list of others!
This whole event is a labor of love for me and for all of us helping to make this happen. Yes, I am a ministry leader, but I'm also a dad who wants his son to have the most meaningful night possible, along with seniors across the nation and around the world. That's exactly what Mr. Hasz, Allen Weed and Reza want as well! That's what Matt, who's been working tirelessly behind the scenes on the tech side, wants too. That's what Gabrielle and every artist and athlete speaking that night wants! That's what every partner listed wants!
We want to bless seniors and their families with a night of inspiration and encouragement that is rooted in the gospel and focused on Jesus!
I hope you tune into nationalseniorsendoff.com as a family on May 28th from 6:00 -7:00 pm MT. I'm praying it's a night that high school seniors and their families never forget!
For press inquiries and interview requests, please contact Heather Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org