SeniorSundayBlessingI still very much love the way Central does its Senior Sunday blessing of our congregation’s graduating high school seniors. The entire church family sings the seniors’ favorite songs during our worship assembly, our seniors and their parents lead us in worship and during the Lord’s Meal, and, yeah, the whole church presents each senior with a new Bible, complete with the autograph of each shepherd. But the coolest and, for the most part, unique-est thing we do is ask our Huddle leaders to formally bless each senior in front of the congregation.

Our Huddle leaders sign up for four year stints. Two couples, two families, commit to being Huddle leaders for a whole class of students as soon as that class enters 9th grade. And for all four years of their high school careers, these leaders spend a lot of time with these same students. In their homes on Wednesday nights, studying and worshiping together, talking over ice-cream floats at Sonic, texting encouragement throughout the week, wrestling together through the difficulties of living as disciples of Jesus. Bill and Suzannah Rexrode have been with Valerie for all four years. Suzannah has come to our house to do Valerie’s hair for every high school prom. And there she was on Senior Sunday, up on the stage with our daughter, blessing her in the name of our Lord.

SeniorSundayTableWith misty eyes and an emotional catch in her voice, Suzannah blessed Valerie by reminding her of her Holy Spirit gifts, by telling her how beautiful and talented she is, and then by charging her to walk faithfully with our God through the coming phases of her life and using those gifts and talents to bless others in his name. She told Valerie that she loved her and that the entire Central church family loved her. And they hugged. And laughed.

What’s not to like about that?

SeniorSundayPalsMatt and Sara Richardson formed the other half of Valerie’s Huddle leaders team four years ago. Valerie baby-sat their girls. Sara took Val to the movies and came by the house to check on her often, to bring her little treats, and to tell her she loved her. Matt and Sara recently moved to Denton, which we’ve not quite totally forgiven. But there they were in the worship center Sunday — all four of them. Sitting through the early morning rehearsal, getting emotional and choked up with the rest of us, eating lunch with us at Ruby Tequila’s, and reminding Valerie of how much she is loved by her God and her church family.

All of the research shows that more than half of our kids brought up in the Church leave the Christian faith at some point between their 19th and 29th birthdays. They just walk away. For a variety of complicated reasons, no doubt. But that same research affirms that almost all the kids who remain faithful to our God and his community of faith once they leave the nest have one thing in common. It’s not a rocking youth group or a contemporary worship service. It’s not a coffee bar in the foyer or a really dynamic preacher. It’s meaningful relationships with adults in the church. It’s having Christian adults they can look up to, they can talk with, they can share life with; adults who will spend time with them, who will love them and hold them accountable, and genuinely appreciate them during this formative time in their lives.

SeniorSundayBanquetFor all the mess that our Huddles are at Central — it’s complicated, complex, messy, difficult, stressful, all that — I’m reminded every year on Senior Sunday why we do it. These kids leave our congregation every year to go off to college and the next important phase of their lives knowing that they truly matter to the adults of our church. There’s no question. They are loved by the adults. They are blessed.

Kit and Amy Todd and Damon and Stephanie Herbert are Carley’s Huddle leaders. And I imagine in three years it’ll be Amy and Stephanie up there blessing our youngest daughter as she graduates high school and leaves for college. With four years of messy, loving, difficult, formative, critical, encouraging relationship between them.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.