Most students question their worth. 

It could be for a number of reasons. For starters, the teenage world isn’t exactly handing out encouragement at every locker stop. It could be a painful experience from their past. It could be a broken family situation. Heck, it could just be because they’re going through puberty (or not going through puberty).

At some point along the way, kids and students assess a situation and, in turn, believe something about themselves. It gets locked into their brains tightly. Then they throw away the key. They don’t do it on purpose. And they don’t realize it. But they do it.

Most of the time, it comes down to this belief:

If I don’t perform, I won’t be okay. I won’t be accepted. I won’t be loved. And I won’t be happy.

Let me pause for a second and note that we still believe this as adults, too. But this isn’t a blog post about adults. I’ll let you go see your counselor and chew on that however you see fit (I see mine this Friday).

“Perform” means something different for every student. For some of them, it’s a literal performance—on a stage, on a field, in a band, or in the classroom. Nothing wrong with those things, of course. Unless student attaches those things to their worth and value.

Some students act out and rebel. Some are class clowns. Some have to be better Christians than anyone else in their student ministry.

You see where I’m going here.

Let’s teach a generation of teenagers that they have worth because, well, they do. It’s way bigger than how they played on Friday night. It’s way stronger than their family of origin. And it’s way richer than the number of likes on their photos.

God sees them as the beloved prize of His pursuit. He thought so much of them that He sent His son to die for them. And He lavishes His love on them because they are His handiwork. Unconditional love does not equal conditional performance. They can put on the best show or the worst, but God’s love isn’t on the same roller coaster as their teenage impulses.

Beyond weaving this idea into your teaching, leadership, and conversations, one practical way to illuminate this is through birthdays. Are you making a big deal out of celebrating birthdays in your student ministry?

When you celebrate someone on his or her birthday, you’re communicating a simple truth:

You matter.

Why do you matter? Because you were born. You graced the world with your uniqueness. And that’s worth a party.

When I created the BIRTHDAY BATTLE RAP, the goal wasn’t simply for it to be an entertaining way to fill time, although I think it is. It’s a way for students to be noticed, valued, and encouraged by other students. If you want to fast-track your student leadership, by the way, get them on board with the idea of servant leadership: making a big deal out of other people.

The good news is, the BIRTHDAY BATTLE RAP allows them to do exactly that, but in a fun, engaging, and entertaining way. But even if you don’t use that resource, find a way to remind students, especially on their birthday, that they matter. Why? Why not? In fact, there is no WHY. They’re worthy, and they’re worth it. Period.

Ben Crawshaw is the author of the very fun Birthday Battle Rap and several other resources here on DYM.