Preparing for Children's Sermons
Who Is This Post For?
If you have ever been asked to do the children’s sermon, for the first time, or as a seasoned children’s sermon leader, this article is for you. This article is for anyone who loves children and enjoys sharing the love of God with them. Whether your church is meeting in person, through a digital platform, or a combination of both, keep in mind children need to be included in your worship service.
Why a Children’s Sermon?
Tradition may be the number one reason churches take time in the worship service for a children’s sermon. Children’s sermons are often called the Children’s Message, Children’s Time, Time For God’s Children, and many more.
The tradition of giving a children’s sermon may be that we love Jesus and want to do as Jesus tells us. “People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.” (Mark 10: 13-14 CEB). Jesus was telling the disciples that children have a place in God’s kingdom and should be welcomed in the worshipping community. The children’s sermon offers the worshipping community a chance to engage children in God’s word during the worship service.
John Westerhoff III believes that God’s story is the foundation of faith. When children hear the Bible stories repeated, the stories become a part of the foundation from which their faith will grow. For more on John Westerhoff’s work, read, Will Our Children Have Faith?
There is an old saying, “Children are not the future of the church, they are the church.” People often say this without truly accepting children as a part of the worshipping community. Because they are the church now, they deserve a place in the worshipping community to learn and be heard. Jesus modeled that he intended children to be a part of the worshipping community by taking them on his lap and blessing them.
Find out what the church expects in the way of a children’s sermon. Churches may expect the children’s sermon to correlate with the adult sermon. Some churches follow the Revised Common Lectionary and expect the children’s sermon to be lectionary-based. A wonderful resource for liturgical ideas and information on children’s sermons, in general, can be found at Carolyn Brown’s Worshipping With Children blog.
Many pastors prefer to write their own sermon series, and not use the Revised Common Lectionary. If so, you will need to know what the main theme of the series is and how many weeks it is. Then you can plan the children’s sermon accordingly.
There is also the surprise request! You are asked to do the children’s sermon, possibly tomorrow, and you can do it on whatever you want! If this happens, there are a couple of things you can pull out of your hat. Is it a communion Sunday? Talk about elements of communion. Is there a baptism scheduled? Talk about baptism in the church. What church season is it? Talk about Lent or Christmas. Explain the colors and the symbols of the church seasons. Let your imagination run wild.
Here are some things that worked for me over the years as I prepared for children’s sermons:
- Know the ages of the children that come for the children’s sermon. In most cases, they will be between 3 and 9 years old.
- If you use prepared children’s sermons from a book, you do not have to present them verbatim from the book. Read several children’s sermons on the same subject, take notes, incorporate your experience with the subject or verse, consider the age of the children you are talking with, and then present them in your own style.
- Have a plan, but be flexible. The unexpected can always happen.
- If using a digital platform, make eye contact with the children. When possible call them by name. Find ways to engage children as they participate through a screen instead of in person.
- Practice holding the mike. This may sound strange, but it comes from experience. Two hands may not be enough when you are trying to show children something and hold the mike. If you can get away without using a mike, great! Children are always willing to help. Ask for help from the children near you.
- Keep the children’s sermon as near to three minutes as you can. Three minutes is about the attention span of most children.
- Children love to hear a story read or look at the pictures. Don’t be afraid to tell the story in your own words.
- Pray for God to guide your words so the children may hear God’s message.
What About the Children?
The children’s sermon is a very important part of the worship experience whether in person or online. How you treat and interact with the children during the sermon demonstrates how children should be treated in the worshipping community.
Show children the respect that you would show adults. Speak to the children using language they can understand. Children are still concrete thinkers, so keep the message simple. Use examples that pertain to their lives. Keep your sermon to one main message, one Bible verse, or one challenge. Children are easily confused if too many ideas are presented at once. When they ask questions, answer them to the best of your ability. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
Stimulate the children’s senses with your sermons. (Keep in mind that many of us are using an in-person option and/or a digital platform so adjust the needs to meet your situation.) Show pictures of what the temple looked like, play music or sing, touch the water in the baptismal font, and smell the aroma of frankincense and myrrh.
Always end with a prayer or a blessing that pertains to the message you talked about. Use interactive prayers; let the children repeat after you, do action prayers, or sign a prayer in sign language.
What If the Children Don’t Listen?
Children get side-tracked even when we do our best to keep them engaged. It is natural for them to be in constant motion. If this happens, ask a second adult to sit with you. Another adult helps with crowd control and you can concentrate on the message being presented. If you have children that love the attention of being in the front of the church, enlist their help in presenting the children’s sermon.
The Bottom Line
No matter why your church does a children’s sermon or how you present a children’s sermon, the bottom line is the children. Focus your full attention on the children. Love them and show that love by listening to and acknowledging them. Children know when you are speaking from your heart. Speak to the children truthfully and from the love that God has placed in your heart. Choose your words carefully.
When a child leaves a church, teaching time or a worship service knowing that God loves them, the church loves them, you love them and that they are a part of God’s loving family, we can say Amen.
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