Student Leadership Team Basics: Celebrating Birthdays

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.

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Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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