That season is quickly upon us, in which family, friends, babysitters, youth group kids, neighbors, our colleagues’ kids, and perhaps our very own kids are graduating. When it’s your own child, you know them well enough to know what they want (or need). But the older we get, the more frequently we may be invited to graduation parties for the children of our friends or colleagues; for 17- and 18-year-olds we don’t know well. And in those cases, it can be hard to pick the perfect graduation gift.
For instance, what does this teen girl like? What’s her style? What would she want in her dorm room? Or if he’s deferring college or going to a trade school, what would be a helpful start for him in this new stage of life? Do I even know?
When you’re not close to the actual graduate, this is daunting. To help this year, I quickly went online and googled “most popular graduation gifts 2019.” Now, the majority of articles that showed up included ideas for college students, with the top one for high school grads being a link to a Seventeen magazine article with a link to “2019 ideas for her.” And it shows how out of touch I am, because I found the ideas odd. A plushie shaped like French fries? A throw blanket sounds cute…but one shaped like a tortilla? I love Cinco de Mayo like anyone else, and love me some tacos, but do I want to gift a teen girl a blanket that looks like a tortilla? I just don’t get it. I found some better options from Good Housekeeping, but they still require me to know the recipient well, which isn’t always the case.
Now, the one thing I do know: high school graduates can always use money. Often, when you’re close to the person, money doesn’t seem like a personal gift. And yet, with the staggering costs of higher education, money for today and the future is increasingly harder to come by. But then the dilemma with giving money (or gift cards, which can also be helpful and fun) becomes: how much do I give? It’s the one gift in which the receiver knows how much you spent on them and this can cause anxiety in deciding how much to give. If I give this amount, will they think I’m cheap? Or stingy? And a whole gamut in between…We all think about the way we’re perceived when giving gifts of money. Shutterfly recommends “in the range of $20-$100 to remain modest and appropriate in light of your relationship.” That adds up quickly when you have many acquaintances graduating! And on top of the first decision on how much to give, in our photo-driven Instagram world, there is added expectation regarding how we present that cash gift—it’s cooler if the gift is worthy of being shared in a selfie.
The great news is that with information anytime, anywhere, you can find tips on how to make cool presentations just one click away, including this helpful video for creating money flowers.
So here’s an idea I learned from a friend and colleague of mine, and thought it was cool. Write a check for the graduating year—so this year, any graduation parties we attend, we’ll be giving each graduate a check for $20.19, since they graduated in 2019. Cute, clever, and a reasonable amount for friends’ kids we don’t know well. Feel free to use my friend’s good idea for the graduates in your life!
One other idea—and not a surprise given that my life’s work and passion is in creating and publishing Bibles for readers around the world—is to consider a book or Bible for the graduate that can be a source of encouragement in this new season, and can also be used for years to come. When I graduated (many years ago now!), I cherished the books I received, and they made their way to my dorm room with me. I already had a great Bible, although this was before the journal Bibles were created and so I journaled my college experience separately from the text. But today I would’ve loved the chance to create a record of this season of life alongside God’s Word. (I recently read this blog post from Tim Challies about the impact of a print Bible. I think high school graduates would be grateful to be able to read through their Bible, years later, with their comments, prayers, thoughts, and questions right next to God’s Word.)
If you visit the Bible Gateway Store, you’ll find wonderful options in a variety of Bible versions, and my personal favorites are the recently released Artisan Collection Bibles. This is the Bible I wish I had had when I went to college! If you want to learn more about the artist who designed these Bibles, check out her inspirational Bible Gateway Blog interview; she has some incredible words for today’s teens who are deciding how they’ll use their God-given talents and gifts in the coming years. And they’ll find hope and peace in reading how her path was not the way she planned it, but rather God working to lead her journey over time to the Bible painting ministry she has today. A powerful reminder to all the high school graduates who feel they must have it all figured out, right now, today.
In summary, I realize that my recommendations for the myriad of graduation opportunities in front of you this year is to either give a Bible or money. Those seem like two opposing items to purchase, especially when considering Matthew 6:24. Perhaps the ultimate gift would be to include a $10 bill as a bookmark in a new Bible, slotted at this passage in Matthew, with a personal note and encouragement to remember this down the road at every twist in the path when money can become a motivator…the visual irony of this pairing will make an impact in a way words alone may never do.
Whatever you do, just showing up to celebrate the graduate is a gift they’ll never forget, and whatever gift you give to them—even just a card—will be treasured for years to come. Happy graduation season!
Artisan Collection Bibles are published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Melinda Bouma serves as the publisher for Zondervan Bibles. She loves God’s Word and seeing its life-changing impact on the world. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and two young children. She enjoys running, reading, good food & good friends, and looks forward to a day when her kids let her sleep in again!
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