by Dennis Wiggs

In this day of Facebook and email, the practice of sending birthday cards has nearly been forgotten. However, I have discovered that a birthday card goes far beyond recognizing a church member’s birthday. It expresses a deep appreciation for that person.

Collect the Data

For several weeks, include a bulletin insert to collect the name, address, and birthday of every church member and child. (Do this annually to update newcomers.) Place each person’s name information in a large notebook, arranged chronologically by month.

Purchase Birthday Cards

Buy birthday cards in boxes, possibly a year’s supply at once. Often Christian bookstores sell them at a discount if you purchase a large number of boxes. Shop the card sales. Select cards for children, men and women.

Begin Sending Cards

Once or twice a month, devote several hours to writing the cards. Include personal comments to encourage church members who are bereaved or sick. Take advantage of this opportunity to express appreciation to faithful church officers. Provide challenging words to young people.

Use the cards to be a “pastor through communication. ”

Plan Ahead

Mail each card two or three days before the person’s birthday. Write the mailing date where the stamp will be placed. Put the cards in a convenient spot where you will be reminded each day to mail them. Place the stamp over the penciled-in mailing date.

A Silent Ministry

Don’t discuss this ministry from the pulpit or in conversation. When people thank you for the card, just say, “You’re welcome.” Make little fanfare about this method of encouragement. This is personal communication to church members and their families. Include a different message in each card.

Tax Deductible

You can deduct the expenses from your income tax under ministry expenses. You will discover that a year’s worth of postage and cards is quite expensive. However, you’ll find that the Lord will provide the funds as you accept this ministry of encouragement and challenge to your church family.

Make Mistakes Graciously

You won’t get all the birthdays recorded the first year. Add to your notebook as you learn of omissions. You don’t need to apologize. Names may be misspelled occasionally and the receiver of the card may correct you publicly. Smile, correct the spelling, and be sure to spell the name correctly the followingyear.

Some may reject the cards. Send them anyway. You may send a card on the wrong day. Mark the mistake down as a learning erperience and correct the date for proper mailing next year. And be sure to place your return address on the cards.

Personalize the Cards

Some companies promote cards embossed with a message and your name. To be effective, however, the cards need to be in your handwriting. This is a wonderful method to communicate kindness to your church family that you may be unable to express in conversation.

Everyone loves to get mail. This tool of encouragement will produce excitement and appreciation by those who receive your cards. Your card may be the only recognition of a person on his special day.

Don’t Expect Recognition

Few church members are likely to remember your birthday. Perform this ministry without looking for personal reward. Realize that most church members don’t send cards. Many don’t know how to respond to their birthdays being recognized.

Make this part of your ministry “as unto the Lord.” He knows why you spend the time and finances. As good stewards of our calling, the Lord will reward us properly and in His own time.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, May 1997.