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What do you do to celebrate the milestone moments in your students’ lives?

Over the years, I’ve learned that even the smallest moments in a student’s life come with big opportunity to celebrate. What am I talking about?

The big birthday markers, 13, 16, 18; these are moments in the lives of our students. Getting a learner’s permit, then a driver’s license are BIG moments for our students. SAT results, a new part-time job, college acceptance letters, their first vehicle, a sporting accomplishment, an academic accomplishment, the lead role in the spring musical, any role in the spring musical, a solo at the band concert, or solo in the chorus concert!

In junior high it might be getting their braces off or their first pair of contacts. It could be their first cell phone or their first real school crush. If we were to sit down and think about it, there could be dozens of possibilities.

These are big moments in the lives of our students, and they should be celebrated! The question is when and how? Here are some thoughts for celebrating the milestones in our students lives.

Make a plan to celebrate.
Before you begin celebrating life moments all willy-nilly, create a plan for what you want to celebrate and how you plan to celebrate a milestone. Some milestone moments are public and great for sharing in front of a crowd. But there are others that can be very private and best left out of the spotlight. It’s important to know which milestones are safe and which one are not.

Make a list of the moments you think might be safe to share and celebrate in a group setting. Decide how you want to celebrate that milestone. Is there a gift or just an announcement? Are you celebrating in front of the whole student body or with a small group of friends? When you have your list and you plan, I recommend sharing this list with your pastor or supervisor. Run it past a few trusted parents or check with a group of youth worker friends. You want to make sure the list is as “safe” as you think it is.

Be consistent in your celebration.
Maybe the hardest part of celebrating milestone moments is the challenge of being consistent. You don’t want to forget to celebrate someone’s big milestone. So, in your milestone plan you should include how you will keep up with the many moments your students will experience. Once you commit to celebrating your students, make sure you celebrate consistently.

A big part of this is knowing your students. You are going to be aware of who is doing what. Some students are great at broadcasting their coming milestones. Others who are more reserved will be less forthcoming. You will need to pay attention to what’s going on in the lives of your students so to not miss one of these milestone moments.

Be creative and have fun.
Think about what it is that you’re celebrating and be creative in your celebration. If a student is getting their braces off, a gift bag filled with their favorite chewy candy or floss and a toothbrush might be fun to give them. If they just purchased a new car, a gift bag with some air fresheners, wiper fluid, an ice scraper, or gift cards to a local car wash might be great items to share. The point is, put some thought into the milestone and the celebration.

Is there theme music when they are invited on stage? Can you get a hold of their license photo and put it on the big screen? Can the parents be involved in some way? Taking the time to make these moments fun will give students something to look forward to as they approach their milestone moments.

By taking the time to celebrate with your students, you reinforce in their hearts and minds that you truly value and love them. They feel known and appreciated. And it adds to the authentic and personal culture you are trying to create within your youth ministry.

Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate your leaders once in a while. They, too, have milestone moments that are often appropriate to celebrate with your students.

So, let’s start thinking how we might be able to celebrate those milestone moments!

– Jay Higham

Discussion Questions:
1. What milestone moments would you list that are worthy of celebrating?
2. If you are already celebrating milestone moments, how are you evaluating and updating your planned celebrations?
3. Consider how celebrating the milestone moments might impact your core values. What benefits might there be in developing a plan to celebrate you students in this way.

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