Summer has always been synonymous with graduation for me. The beating hot sun, the locally famous commencement speakers, yearbook signings. Oh, and those huge signs parents put out in their front lawn that say “congratulations Luke and the class of 2022!” It seems that even when you don’t personally have a family member or close friend moving into the next phase of schooling, graduation season is still all around us.
Which begs the question, why just stick to traditional school graduations? Our Grace Kids are moving on up to the next stages of their lessons about Jesus, too. Which means another opportunity for us to celebrate! This past Sunday was our Graduation Sunday. A special time where kids got to say goodbye to their familiar classrooms, and say hello to their new rooms and small group leaders.
Many new faces came through the Kindergarten doors, as it was officially time for our Pre-K students to transition to our Elementary school program (formally known as Clubhouse). The leader of our Three’s and Four’s program, Jackie Ruff, said “ It was so special seeing them go from being the oldest kids in the class to walking into large group being the youngest. I am excited to see them grow in their faith and build relationships with their small group leaders that will impact them for the rest of their lives.”
Kids throughout all our other classrooms got to celebrate their accomplishments by making their own diploma craft and coming together one last time in the worship room to dance and try on their very own graduation caps. This also gave our leaders a chance to spend a little more time with the kids that some of them have been teaching for years.
After blasting the room with a handheld confetti cannon, our graduates lined up by grade to take pictures in front of our bright and colorful Grace Kids backdrop. Where there was, you guessed it, more confetti. It wouldn’t be a graduation without photos to commemorate the day. This moment also marked the last time our 5th graders would be a part of Grace Kids. Matt Apel, who is a current 4th and 5th grade small group leader shared, “Graduation is always a bittersweet day because as 4-5th grade teachers we watch these students we’ve known and built relationships with for 5 years move into middle school. But knowing that they’ve got a foundation of faith to build upon in a more mature way brings me abundant joy and a chance to look back and see how God has worked in their lives to bring them to this point.”
But where one chapter ends, another begins. The 5th graders may have left Grace Kids (and will now be sitting in “big church” with the adults), but they’ll get to continue spending time with their friends and learning more about the word of God through our middle school program, Vibe! Josh Laryea, who has been a small group leader with Grace Kids for many years, said, “It was awesome to see and hear how the 5th grade kids were excited to graduate and move to Vibe. They had heard great things from their older siblings and friends. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of creating a fun, safe space for kids to grow in their understanding and relationship with God.”
Graduation Sunday 2023 doesn’t only mark leaving the old and entering the new for Grace Kids, but for everybody, as we’re all about to be entering new rooms that we’re not used to in our brand new building. If you’re a regular attendee of Sunday morning services, please welcome our new middle school friends if you see them. If you’re a parent of a child who just moved up to a new grade, our small group leaders will continue to welcome you and your kids to what’s going to be an incredible future at Hoboken Grace.