Stickers. Pencils. Trinkets. Been there, done that. How can a baptismal birthday celebration reflect the significance of the event? Consider ten ideas that could be used monthly in your Sunday School or elementary school classroom. Have a party and invite your community of believers!
- Summer baptismal birthdays (June, July, August): Bring the birthday party outside! Rent a dunk tank and give each birthday child a turn. The other children in their classes will have fun aiming for the target. If you’re on a shoestring budget, make your own simple target and rig up your own “dunk” tank or an alternate way to get wet (e.g., hose, bucket, or wet sponges). Remind the children that sin means we “miss the mark” of being perfect. Since no one is holy, we deserve punishment, which is death. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins are washed away. Baptism is a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. Each day, the old Adam in us is drowned and dies with all sins and evil desires, and a new, pure person emerges.
- September baptismal birthdays: The beginning of the school year makes us think of school buses transporting students to school, but the bus can also be used to remind your students to “go” and make disciples of all nations. Make a large school bus picture, but leave off the wheels. Blindfold the birthday children and let them have a turn pinning the wheels on the bus. Make it challenging, though, by spinning them around or putting people (or other safe obstacles) in their way. Remind the children what Baptism is by reading “What is Baptism?” from the catechism. The devil wants to get in the way of our witnessing, but the Holy Spirit is at work producing faith. The bus reminds us that each day as we go to school and as we leave from school, the Spirit is guiding us and is at work in us to share our faith.
- October baptismal birthdays: Who remembers the Elefun game? Instead of catching butterflies, catch the blessings of Baptism bestowed upon us! Cut autumn-leaf-colored tissue paper into very simple leaf shapes. Use a marker to write a blessing of Baptism on each one. Use the words from the catechism: “forgiveness of sins,” “rescues from death and the devil,” and “gives eternal salvation to all who believe” (Baptism, Second Part). Then let the fun begin! To represent the Holy Spirit at work through Baptism, bestowing God’s blessings through faith, blow the leaves around using a hair dryer (in a classroom) or using a leaf blower (in a larger setting). If in a larger setting, you may need to have someone stand on a ladder and slowly pour out the blessings from a bucket.
- November baptismal birthdays: We have a feast at Thanksgiving, so this month let the birthday children make a treat. Show a box of cake mix and talk about how useless it is on its own. But with the instructions, we know how to make it into delicious, rich birthday cupcakes. Water alone does not give us the blessings of Baptism. It is the word of God in and with the water that does these things, along with the faith that trusts the word of God in the water. As the catechism says, “with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace” (Baptism, Third Part). Let the entire class make the cupcakes with you, or in a larger setting, let just the birthday children make and eat them.
- December baptismal birthdays: Everyone loves a present, and Acts 2:38–39 reminds us that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all nations. Jesus especially invites little children to come to Him; as sinners, even babies need what Baptism offers. Order Christmas crackers for each birthday child or make your own using toilet paper tubes, wrapping paper, and small novelty fireworks called bang snaps or poppers. Have the birthday child choose another child, younger than him or her, to hold the other end of his or her cracker. Give each child and child’s helper a turn to simultaneously pull on their ends, cracking open the present. If desired, do not fill the inside, and remind the children that the bang and the empty chamber remind us of the earthquake and empty tomb on Easter, which has won for us salvation. Read Romans 6:4.
- January baptismal birthdays: Some people celebrate their new year with piñatas, and you can too! Instead of fancy crepe-paper strips adorning the piñata, decorate your piñata with longer strips of paper that have a sin written on them. Cover the entire piñata. Inside, place candy or confetti, but also be sure to add strips of paper that say “washing of regeneration” and “renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Give each birthday child an opportunity to bash the sins, representing Romans 6:6. “In Baptism, the Holy Spirit works faith and so creates in us new spiritual life with the power to overcome sin” (Small Catechism, Baptism, Third Part).
- February baptismal birthdays: What’s the first party game you ever learned? Does musical chairs come to mind? This time as you play, however, remove a chair each time you play, but don’t let anyone get “out.” Participants have to share a chair! See how many children can sit together on one another’s laps by the end of the game. This party game can help to illustrate the gift of Baptism from the Holy Spirit of bringing us into the family of God. We are made God’s children, and because of that we inherit eternal life in our heavenly Father’s presence forever. Read Titus 3:5–8.
- March baptismal birthdays: Whether this month comes in like a lion or a lamb, you can use wind to remind the birthday children about the work of the Holy Spirit. Hold up a deflated balloon and talk about how lifeless it is. Can it blow itself up? Of course not! We, too, were once lifeless, but the Holy Spirit breathes life into us at our Baptisms, like the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Also read 2 Corinthians 5:17. Have a little fun with a popping balloons contest or have a partner relay where students work with another child to move balloons from one side of the room to the other by standing back to back or front to front and not using hands.
- April baptismal birthdays: Getting a new outfit for Easter is a fairly common practice, but what about getting a new outfit because of Easter? Through His suffering and death in our place and victory over death three days later, Jesus has given us His righteousness. Read Galatians 3:26–27 and Ephesians 4:24. It may be more of a shower game, but this classic will work as a baptismal birthday game as well. Have the birthday child choose four friends. Give each group six rolls of toilet paper and a time limit. Have each group wrap the birthday child in toilet paper, designing a dress or suit, dressing him or her in pure white “robes of righteousness.” Have a fashion show.
- May baptismal birthdays: Summer’s almost here. Dust off the grass skirts and tiki torches and . . . limbo stick! Crank up Chubby Checker and let the birthday children play a game of limbo. How low can they go without touching the pole? How good does someone have to be to earn heaven? We are sinners, who fail to live up to God’s perfection. No matter how good we are, we don’t earn our way to heaven. Some religions teach that after you die, your soul is in “limbo,” neither in heaven or hell. But believers know that “Christ has indeed won full forgiveness and salvation for the whole human race with His perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection. He distributes this same forgiveness in Baptism. (Baptism is a means of grace)” (Small Catechism, Baptism, Third Part). Read Mark 16:16.
Do these ideas do justice to baptismal birthday recognitions? Maybe, maybe not. But just remember that Jesus is what makes a “worthy” baptismal birthday celebration! He’s what makes the event significant, so as long as He is the center of your celebration, I bequeath you Party Planner of the Year.
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Catechism quotations are from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.