Article May 26, 2017

A gift guide for graduates

Tis’ the season of turning tassels. If your family is like ours, your calendar is full of graduation ceremonies and parties to attend. Since we all have a call to impact the next generation with God’s Truth (Titus 2:1-5), this time of year presents an exciting and unique opportunity. The graduates in our spheres of influence are at a crossroads, eager to find purpose and identity. Instead of simply offering platitudes and “Atta Boys/Girls” we can seize this moment and hold high the banner of Truth.  

Here are some ideas for how to bless the graduate in your world by giving gifts that matter.

It starts with the card

The demands on your graduate's time and brain space are high. You may not get a lingering lunch with them or a morning at the coffee shop to talk about what matters. What you do get is “The Card.” Don’t think of graduation cards like folded cardstock with bills tucked inside. Think of them as a pulpit, an opportunity to download some wise counsel straight into the heart of your graduate.

One pitfall of graduation is that for a moment, the world seems to be all about you. Everyone seems to be asking, “What scholarships did you get?”, “Where are you going to college?”, “How’s your job searching going?” Instead of simply scribbling “Congrats!” take a moment to remind them that their future belongs to the Lord. His will is paramount. His promises are waiting for them on the other side of the graduation stage.

Here are some great verses to include:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-34).

Better than a stack of benjamins

Most graduates might initially disagree, but it’s been long enough since my own graduations for me to realize that there are many gifts more important than money. Instead of stuffing some cash in the card you just took so much time to write, consider these gift ideas designed to help you do more than celebrate graduation, but to pass the baton of faith to the next generation. Your graduate needs more than adorable dorm decor; they need resources to keep them rooted and grounded in God’s Word. Through years of student and college ministry, these have become some of my favorites:

Books

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung. This little book makes a great gift for all graduates. Author Kevin DeYoung offers practical and biblical guidelines for decision making. The end result is liberating, as readers are freed from the pressure to seek God’s will in all decisions through cosmic confirmations.

“Jesus does not want us to worry about the future,” DeYoung writes. “God knows what we need to live. When He wants us to die, we will die. And as long as He wants us to live, we will live. He will provide us with the food, drink, jobs, housing, with everything we need to live and glorify Him in this life until He wants us to glorify Him by dying. Worrying and fretting and obsessing about the future, even if it is a pseudo-holy worry that attempts to discern the will of God, will not add one single hour to your life, and it will certainly not add any happiness or holiness either.”

The proud members of the Class of 2017 (and 2018, and 2019. . .) need the wise and practical reminders in this book.

Speaking of Kevin DeYoung, I’d recommend his book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem for graduates too. Like Just Do Something, Crazy Busy is a call to sanity in response to God’s Word. Our graduates have had a steady drip of the lie that busy people are better people throughout their academic career. This book points them to dig up the root problems that lead to busyness and commit to serving Christ for the long haul.

This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years by Jaquelle Crowe is a great gift option for the high school graduate in your world. Written by a young writer for young readers, this book applies the gospel to daily life in a way that is essential, and so often hard to find. If you want your graduate to define their identity, their relationships, their sense of community and their role in the church through the lens of the gospel, grab this book.

The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics and The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. I gave these books to my husband when he was ordained into the ministry (a graduation of sorts), and we have enjoyed them for many years. Beautifully designed and loaded with the riveting storytelling and wisdom unique to Lewis, any graduate would be lucky to have these books on their shelf.

Bibles

Since there is no greater source of wisdom, knowledge or purpose than God’s Word, Bibles make the perfect graduation gift. Here are two of my favorites to give away:

The She Reads Truth Bible. The young women you know likely already love and follow SheReadsTruth.com, a ministry with a simple mission to see women in the Word of God everyday. Hot off the presses, just in time for graduation, The She Reads Truth Bible is beautifully designed, while pledging uncompromising allegiance to the authority of Scripture. With features like key verses, reading plans and highly designed maps and charts, the student in your world will become a better student of God’s Word with this resource.

The ESV Study Bible and ESV Single Column Journaling Bible. These are legacy Bibles that your graduate can keep for a lifetime. The ESV Study Bible is jam packed with notes and cross-references. The journaling Bible offers space to annotate. Both make beautiful gifts and even more beautiful changes in the heart of the reader who opens them.

Studies

Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. My own mentor gave me this study when I graduated from high school and challenged me to dig in as I adjusted to life as a college student. Newly independent, I had to decide whether I would use my wings to fly toward rebellion or toward righteousness. It seems like an easy choice now, but it didn’t always then. I have vivid memories of laying out a blanket on the lawn of my college campus and digging into this study. I’d like to picture the graduate in your world doing the same.

Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom. This 12-week study has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of many others I know. In addressing topics like humility, honesty, repentance, obedience and sexual purity, this study plays out like spiritual bootcamp. The graduate who completes it will find themselves deeply rooted in God’s Word and better able to respond to their circumstances with an eternal perspective.

Fun gifts with purpose

A compass

A favorite graduation gift we love to give away is a nice compass inscribed with Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” It’s a practical and beautiful reminder to point our hearts and lives toward Jesus and simply follow where he leads us.

The Settlers of Catan

It would be a stretch to try to find a deeply spiritual meaning behind this gift, but I still recommend it. This strategy game is a favorite at our house, and I imagine it would be in dorm rooms and student unions too. Your graduate is going to make new friends in the months ahead. Let them know that you’re praying those friends will be of the godly, iron-sharpening-iron variety who love to spend hours playing board games.

The best gift of all

Of course the best gifts can never be wrapped up. These are the ones your graduate needs most of all. Model the life you long for them to find. Love God, love others. There’s a good chance the graduates in your world will notice and follow your lead. Then pray like crazy. I don’t need to startle you with the statistics about young people and the church. I bet you already know that there is cause for concern. But there is also cause for great hope. God’s plan has always been for faith to be passed down through the generations. He is already equipping the next generation to lead, love, serve and make disciples. Let’s do everything we can to point them to Jesus along the way.