July is birthday month for me. My family did not make a big deal about birthdays growing up. We rarely had parties. When my brother or I had a birthday, we would set out from our small town in rural Georgia to the big city of Atlanta where we would go to ShowBiz pizza and Toys R Us. (For you young people reading this, ShowBiz pizza eventually became Chuck E Cheese.) We would play skee ball, jump in the ball pit, eat pizza, and watch a bear named Billy Bob and his other animatronic bandmates play music. Then we would head to Toys R Us where we got to spend $20. The non-birthday sibling got to spend $10. Birthday celebration with minimal work and well below $100. My parents were smart.
While my family did not make a big deal about birthdays, my best friends and I did. My two best friends’ and my birthday were only weeks apart. In our teenage and college years, we competed to see who could outdo each other in birthday shenanigans. It started out with hanging birthday posters around town, graduated to hanging signs on interstate overpasses, and got out of control when Kristy and Laura spray painted Happy Birthday, Karen! on the road at the entrance to our subdivision. Word of advice: vandalism is probably not the best way to celebrate the rule-keeper of the group’s birthday. We live hundreds of miles away from each other now, but we still try get together to celebrate when we can. Last year we met up in Atlanta for afternoon tea at the St. Regis Hotel.
I took you on this walk down my memory lane for a reason. Birthday celebrations can be a great ministry tool. Birthdays are a very big deal to preschoolers and children. When you take time to acknowledge a child’s birthday, you are showing how valuable he or she is to you. Parents are also touched that you care about their child, opening doors for further ministry. Celebrating a child’s birthday is a relatively simple thing to do. Here are some ideas:
- Call children in your class on their birthday to wish them a happy one.
- Send a card to each child in your class on his birthday.
- Keep a birthday box filled with inexpensive toys or treats. Invite a child to select an item from the box the week before or after his birthday.
- Provide a special snack for a child to share with her classmates the week of her birthday.
- Provide a birthday balloon for a child the week of his birthday. Be aware of latex allergies.
- Use some class time for kids to make a stash of birthday cards. Send a kid-made birthday card to kids on their birthday.
- Sing “Happy Birthday” in class to a child the week of her birthday.
- Designate one gathering a month to celebrate all the children in your class who had birthdays that month.
- During the school year, arrange to visit a child for school lunch on his birthday.
- Arrange with parents to visit a child at home around her birthday. Children will enjoy showing your their room and making that personal connection. I know a couple that has done this every year for the 20+ years they have taught in kids ministry. Often, they end up sharing the gospel with the child and her family while they are there!