Church: Zion UMC - Lydia
District: River Valley
Submitted by: Larry Kasten
by Christa Meland
Members of Lydia Zion United Methodist Church go out of their way to make sure they don’t miss Sunday worship the week of their birthday.
That’s because the church’s birthday ministry has become one of their cherished birthday traditions.
During the announcements portion of each Sunday’s worship service, those celebrating a birthday in the upcoming week are invited to bring pennies and other coins—the number of which matches their age—to place in a plastic jar shaped like a church; money collected goes to Sunday School or mission projects.
Members (mostly children) then guess the birthday honoree’s age, and the congregation sings a special birthday song: “Happy birthday to you. To Jesus be true. May God’s richest blessings now rest upon you.”
Next, the birthday honoree brings a “mission basket” into the congregation; the basket contains small slips of paper that list the church’s mission statement, its vision statement, and a special mission task. The celebrant can choose someone in the congregation to draw a slip and perform the designated mission task, or the celebrant can select his or her own mission task from the basket—or both.
Tasks have included zipping through the day with a smile, calling on a friend to see how they’re doing, reading a scripture, taking a meal to someone, bringing a friend to church, and visiting a Sunday School class.
After members perform their mission tasks, they can choose to sign their name next to the task and post it on a special bulletin board to let other members know they completed it.
Pastor Larry Kasten says members of the 155-person congregation, which averages between 80 and 90 for worship, are very “mission-minded.” The birthday ministry is an extension of that mindset and has generated a “super positive” response.
“It breaks the ice,” says Kasten. “It shows that we’re all a family because we celebrate all of our birthdays. We care about and love one another.”
Additionally, it reminds people how important mission work is and how simple it can be.
“We can all be in mission,” says Kasten. “It doesn’t mean you have to be overseas or spend hours and hours and hours doing something.”
This year, on Christmas Eve, everyone in the congregation will receive a mission task in celebration of Jesus’ birthday.
Kasten says the birthday ministry recently expanded to include a celebration table. If a member of the congregation, or a family, wants to celebrate something special in their lives—whether it be a birthday, an anniversary, a new baby, or something else—they are invited to bring photos and other items to display. One family brought pictures and a birthday cake to celebrate the birthday of a loved one who died in an accident 30 years ago and to honor his memory.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church