Recognizing Graduates: Senior Bios

My husband and I both grew up doing theater. In college, we even directed a show together. As part of that show, my husband introduced me to the concept of writing the actors' bios (the ones that appear in the program) for them – something that his Uncle Ken always did for the shows he directed. He talked about how special it was to have the director pen everyone's bio for them and how that managed to surprise even the actors. Although I was skeptical, we decided to give it a try. The cast loved it.

During the last several years, I've borrowed this tradition for our youth ministry. On graduation Sunday – the day we recognize our high school students in worship with a special blessing – we include senior bios in the bulletin. Graduates and their families fill out a basic questionnaire listing their name, high school, what they'll be doing after graduation or where they'll be attending college and what they'll be studying, and the activities they were involved with at their high school as well as in our congregation. We also ask parents to give us three words that describe their teen. Using these questionnaires and what I know about each teen, I then pen their bio.

Here's what I like about this tradition:

- The bios are personal. Though we don't individually recognize each graduate during the blessing we use in worship, the bios help make every graduate feel known and loved. 

- Because I have some basic information about every teen, I'm able to write a bio for each person – even those I don't know extremely well.

- It's inclusive. Any graduate can have their bio listed, regardless of how active they've been in our high school youth ministry. 

- Since the bios are written by one person, they're all somewhat uniform. This prevents some students from having only a sentence or two while others have multiple paragraphs. 

- Although I weave in the various activities that teens have participated in during their high school careers, because I write their bios, each and every teens' bio is related to their faith in someway. 

- Senior bios help our congregation to learn about our teens – giving adults information about teens they've watched grow up.

- Senior bios connect teens and adults. By providing adults with basic information about our teens, senior bios give adults a gateway for conversation. On graduation Sunday, adults will often seek teens out to connect with them over shared experiences in high school, colleges, or majors. This gives teens yet another adult who knows and care for them – and oftentimes will follow up with them when they're home on break to ask about their college experience thus far. 

- Senior bios equip people to pray. They're something people can post on their fridge as a reminder to regularly pray for graduates as they transition into the next phase of their lives.

Recognizing high school graduates is an important way to show we care about them. Senior bios help us do just that by meaningfully sharing who a senior is and what their hopes are for the future.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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