The graduation open house season is an exciting couple of weeks at the end of May/early June to celebrate students and their completion of high school. The open house is an awesome opportunity to meet people and show your support to families as they prepare for their son or daughter to embark on adulthood. The open house is also an interesting mix of people gathered together with the only common ground being a connection to the graduate.
Student Ministers (as well as coaches, teachers, etc) get invited to a lot of open houses and recently I came across a rating system to help us evaluate the open house experience. This rating system is based on a 1-5 chicken wings for overall experience. I know it's a little deceptive since I'm using a chicken wing as the measurement for rating, but the experience goes well beyond the food that is served at the open house. So, while the food might be awesome, if the lawn games are lame, the overall experience rating may suffer.
The "🍗" open house experience is the bare minimum experience. Never mind the fact that you couldn't figure out which house was having the party...apparently you overlooked the Post-it note on the mailbox that said "Congrats Grad". They've got the Mountain Lightning, Doctor Thunder and other generic soft drinks on ice. You can also have water from the tap if you want. There isn't really a "grad shrine" only a photo slideshow looping to "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" by Green Day. The food is a lunchables spread of the finest meats, cheese and crackers. They didn't even spring for the pizza crust with cold pizza sauce. The outdoor entertainment is a random uncle daring people to taze him. Some may argue that the uncle taze-ing puts this open house on a "whole-nuthah-level"...but we're holding strong at the bottom.
A step up is the "🍗🍗" open house experience. They've got the party sub going on and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves. There's also some "no bake" cookies that grandpa just can't seem to get enough of. The science fair project board is fully stocked with photos from the last 936 weeks of existence. There's a basketball hoop out front where you can play H-O-R-S-E with people that you're likely to never see or talk to again, but you don't show any mercy. You've mastered that "behind the hoop, over the backboard" shot and you'll make them make it all day if they want to beat you. The parking situation is the real downer here...the house is perched on top of mountain and there's no ski lift in sight. So, by the time you hoof it up to the front door, you're suffering from vertigo and you don't have much time to stick around and chat because you've got other open houses to get to and a 20 minute walk back to your car.
"🍗🍗🍗" is a magic number and compared to the first two experiences, you're feeling great as you pull up to this open house. Thankfully, your confident that you found the location because they've put a yard banner out featuring a 3 feet by 2 feet headshot of their graduate. This audacious lawn accoutrement is just the beginning of the pomp and circumstance that you're about to step into as this family is super-proud of their, apparently only child's accomplishments. You'll find the student in their garage that has been transformed to pay homage with little league jerseys and other memorabilia. They're prepared to give you a guided tour through their childhood and you won't mind because it gives you something to listen to while you munch on pulled pork and 7-layer dip.
While the "🍗🍗🍗🍗" experience doesn't earn the top spot, it is a truly solid open house experience that any guest is sure to enjoy. You pull up and you notice an eager family member guiding you to a parking spot in the yard. As you enter the house you notice a table covered with yearbooks and certificates and a picture frame with a place for you to write your well-wishes to the graduate. After you finish jotting down something like, "It's not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away." you make your way to the kitchen where your greeted by a food spread that rivals that scene in Hook when Peter Pan finally figures out how to use his imagination again. There's chicken wings and burger sliders and cheese cubes and shrimp and graduation cake and ice cream. You exit out the back door where you have your choice of lawn volleyball or corn hole. And you pretend like you know the graduate because you didn't get invited to this Open House but it looked so good as you drove by that you decided to crash.
The "🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗" open house experience is a Pinterest board brought to life. The parents are on a first name basis with the workers at Party City. This party has it's own hashtag, Snapchat filter, and Instagram photo booth. You're too busy stuffing strawberries into the chocolate fountain that you're missing out on Aunt Patty and Uncle Jerry performing a lip-sync duet of "Rewrite the Stars". You make your way over to write your "Key to Success" for the graduate as they enter adulthood, but all you can come up with is, "You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow." Once the lip-sync battle concludes the DJ keeps the party going into the night...when it finally ends everyone leaves with a gourmet cupcake as a party favor.
O, the places you'll go and the things you'll see during graduation party season! I hope you enjoy each and every open house experience this year. Have some great conversations, enjoy some great food and celebrate these young men and women as they enter the next chapter of their journey.