How many hands will you shake or hugs will you give this graduation season? Rae Jean is three for three, and that’s just with her kids: Each child of hers will graduate at a different level of the educational system this year. Teachers, youth leaders, and coaches probably have lengthy lists. You may have one or more graduation open house invites on your calendar or magnetized to your refrigerator. To date, we have four.

So how do we bless graduates? Their hope is cards with lots of cash or other gifts that serve them well in the future. This is good and right. Bless as only you can! But beyond the expected, how can we bless and spur graduates on in their faith and God’s plan? Here are three ways to consider.

  1. Say a prayer. As you walk or drive up to the graduation party, pray. Thank God for his plans for this graduate. Pray for his words to fill your mouth and his ears to hear people’s hearts as you connect with the graduate and the other guests. Ask God to use the party to honor him, the food to nourish bodies, and the conversations to feed souls.
  2. Strike a chord. Whenever we approach a graduate’s party, my husband asks the names of the graduate, his/her parents and siblings, and even grandparents. Mike wants to ensure we bless with the correct names. I have learned much from his intentionality. Another way to strike a chord is to know what the graduate cares about. Did this person excel in academics, sports, service, arts, or being the best babysitter or friend ever? Do you know their next plans? If not, ask. If so, encourage and spur them on!
  3. Speak a blessing. When you shake their hand or give a hug, don’t stop at “Congratulations!” or “I wish you well!” Give them a word of encouragement and God’s blessing. Here are some blessings found in scripture you may choose to use:
  • May you clearly see God’s path for you. “You make known to me the path of life; ou will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
  • May you live aware that God goes before you and walks with you. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
  • May you always remember that God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6).
  • May you rest in God’s good plans for you. “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • May his peace fill your thoughts day and night. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
  • May you daily run to God and his word. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding” (Psalm 119:32).
  • May God’s word direct all your steps. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Maybe you love being invited to commencement services and graduation parties. Maybe you groan at another invite. No matter your reaction, you have a choice. Will you bemoan or bless?

May the desires of his heart be ours: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Writer’s note: All verses are quoted from the New International Version (NIV).