This article is from Issue 39 of “On The Move,” a publication of “new learning possibilities for churches”, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced with permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church, provides a unique opportunity for an exciting intergenerational event to mark a special day in the church calendar. Since the church, every person, and every congregation all have birthdays, Pentecost becomes the perfect time to combine all three birthdays i ntoajoyous celebration.
Individual birthday recognition
Set up the church hall with twelve gaily decorated tables – each labelled with a month, January through December. Assign twelve different people to bake decorated birthday cakes with candles, one for each month. On Pentecost morning during the Sunday school hour, have everyone gather in the church hall at the table that represents their birthday month. This procedure mixes up families and provides an unusual opportunity for meeting other people.
Play several get-acquainted games and gather some group statistics. For example: Who wears the smallest size shoe? Who has the most brothers and sisters? Who was born in the state or country farthest away? (And so on.)
Give each table felt-tip markers and a sheet of newsprint or poster board labelled with the birthday month. Each person is to sign his or her name and add words or pictures that tell what is special about their birth month. Share the creations.
Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ (substitute’you and me’ where you would normally sing a person’s name), and then enjoy the cakes and a beverage.
The birthday of your congregation
Several weeks before Pentecost, establish a committee to locate available pictures, slides, movies and memorabilia pertaining to your congregation’s history. Have another group of people organise and edit whatever is found to create 10-15 minute presentation on the history of your congregation.
This presentation is an enjoyable experience for older church members, an enlightening experience for new members, and provides children with a sense of tradition and belonging.
Perhaps a talented person in the congregation would write a song or poem summarising some of the unique characteristics of your congregation.
Close the celebration of your congregation’s birthday with a token gift or flower to the:
• oldest member
• newest member
• person who travels the shortest or longest distance to church
• Sunday school teacher who has taught the longest
• choir member who has sung the longest
• family with the most generations attending the church.
The birthday of the Christian church
The finale of the celebration is a balloon ascension. Have helium-filled balloons on hand, one for each person. (Check out Party supply places or ‘Gas – Industrial &/or Medical’ in the phone book to locate a helium supplier.) Have small index cards ready, too. Each card should have your church name and address on it, along with a request that whoever finds the card should jot down where it was found and then mail it back.
Give each person a card and ask them to write a message, verse of scripture, or draw a picture to spread the good news of God’s love. Make sure people sign the cards. Attach the cards to the inflated balloons.
Have everyone gather outside with their balloons. (Ideally, the sun will be shining.) The minister may offer a prayer. Then have everyone sing an appropriate hymn or song and release the balloons. Any musical accompaniment or fanfare will make the balloon ascension even more dramatic.
As the balloons are found and the cards mailed in over the next several weeks, record their locations on a map displayed where all can see it.
A Pentecost birthday party like the one described here makes a memorable intergenerational experience!
Reprinted from Parish Teacher, May 1982. Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Used by permission.
Jeanne Mueller is an education director and writer living in Randallstown, Maryland, U.S.A.