How to teach teens to notice others

Jen Bradbury
Jun 04 · 5 min read

A few weeks ago, my youth ministry held it’s third annual spring banquet. The event started after my student leaders approached me, saying they wanted to hold a dance for our youth ministry.

That thought made me want to vomit.

Rather than express my true feelings, I proceeded to ask these leaders some questions, attempting to figure out what they really wanted.Through this, I concluded they actually wanted an opportunity to dress up and take pictures with one another. Having realized that, we then brainstormed other events that would accomplish the same thing.

We eventually decided to hold a formal banquet during which students could dress up and take pictures with each other.

My students LOVE that part of the banquet.

While I don’t mind it, that’s not what I love most about this event.

What I love most about the banquet are the awards.


Everyone who comes to the banquet gets an award – something tangible that’s also emblematic of our youth ministry (like a Jesus bobble head or a paper crown). Our hope is that it will land in students’ rooms, a constant reminder of their life of faith.

The bulk of the banquet is actually spent giving out these awards. Months before the banquet, student leaders begin writing each person’s award. They then present the awards the night of the banquet.

They honor each person in our youth ministry, using the same format. They share a specific, sometimes humorous story about the award’s recipient before then saying, “That’s why PERSON X will be remembered this year for…” The result is something like this:

Nowadays, time is important, but that doesn’t stop this student from giving up countless hours to help others. She always helps refugee kids out with their homework at Kids Club. She also isn’t afraid to deliver goods to refugees that have just arrived in the US, talk to them and hear their stories. This year, we’ll remember PERSON X for her servant’s heart and for never being afraid to jump right in.

There’s honestly so much I love about these awards:

- Not voting for people's awards keeps them from becoming a popularity contest.
- The awards are personal; They show the relationships that students in our ministry have with one another.
- Oftentimes, awards call out something in the recipient they have not yet claimed for themselves. As such, in some ways, these awards become identity giving.
- Each person involved in our ministry gets their moment in the spotlight – even if they don't necessarily want it. This ensures that every person in our ministry knows they're loved and valued.

Hebrews 10:25 challenges us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” In many ways, this banquet has become one of the primary ways in which my ministry teaches teens how to do this. Because they know that each spring, they'll be tasked with writing awards for those in our ministry, this process has taught my student leaders to notice the good in each other throughout the year and then to name it, in the process spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

That's why when I click through the photos from the banquet, I see more than dressed up students having a good time. I see the ways each students uniquely contributed to our ministry throughout the year.

I hope they do too.