Earlier in this Student Leadership Team Basics series, we talked about how the role of your student leadership team is to create a culture of welcome in your youth ministry. One specific way you can do this is by having your team recognize and honor birthdays. Here’s how: 

  1. At the start of your program year, spend several weeks asking everyone to update their information. As part of this, collect everyone’s birthdays.

  2. Ask your Student Leadership Team to come up with a way to recognize everyone’s birthday. This can be a monthly, weekly, or an “as-needed” recognition. Depending on your ministry’s budget, this can be an up-front recognition that costs no money, a birthday cake, or individual birthday gifts. For example, in my ministry, we give each teen a birthday gift that typically costs about $1. Then we personalize each gift so that in some way, it speaks into a teen’s identity. What’s important about this tradition is not how much you spend but rather that everyone’s birthday is recognized and perhaps even more importantly, that everyone’s birthday is recognized in the same way. By recognizing everyone in the same way, you show that your ministry values everyone involved in it.

  3. Once your team decides how to recognize and honor birthdays, give student leaders an active role in this process. For example, in my ministry, one year we gave each teen a decorated frame containing a picture of that teen from one of our youth ministry’s activities. Student leaders decorated the frame with words describing that teen. Another year, we gave each teen a friendship bracelet. The team chose the colors of the bracelet to reflect each recipient’s personality. One teen wrote up a blurb that explained why the colors were chosen. Another made the friendship bracelet. This year, we’ve given out journals. The team decorates the notebook covers and then each person on the team writes a note to the recipient on the first few pages of the journal. Each week, a student leader presents birthday gifts to students who are in attendance.

  4. Figure out how to address summer birthdays. If you take the summer off of programming, a good way of doing this is to celebrate people’s half-birthdays.

  5. Decide how to celebrate the birthdays of those who don’t regularly attend your youth ministry’s gatherings. In my ministry, if we’ve had a teen’s birthday gift for longer than month, a student leader takes the gift and drops it off at the teen’s home. Doing so is a great way to communicate that a teen’s value is not dependent on their attendance. It also provides student leaders with a great opportunity to connect with more marginal teens.

By recognizing birthdays, not only do you give student leaders real responsibility, but you also show each teen in your ministry that they are loved and known.

Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: Popsicle Stick Prayers

Student Leadership Team Basics: What to do at your regular meetings

Student Leadership Team Basics: Evaluating

Student Leadership Team Basics: Blogging

Student Leadership Team Basics: Training Your Leaders by Reading

Student Leadership Team Basics: The Interview 

Student Leadership Team Basics: How many leaders should you have? 

Student Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Student Leadership Team Basics: 6 things to look for in student for in student leaders 

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