As a pastor I often get the question, “Do you have any advice for helping my kids to benefit from the sermon?”
This is a question that I really appreciate because it recognizes the importance of the preaching of the Word of God and our reception of it. It recognizes that even the children are to hear and, to best of their ability, understand what is being preached.
What follows are some things that I have done as a Dad and also as a pastor.
Parents Before the Sermon
Read the passage as a family before Sunday morning. This is easy and so very important. They hear the passage read by Dad or Mom and see your commitment to the Word of God. This goes further than you can imagine.
- Ask and answer questions about the passage. As you read it ask questions that help them to see connections and other important features.
- Highlight key themes.
- Make particular notes about the context. A good study Bible is helpful here (my favorite).
Pray for the pastor and those who will gather in the morning. After reading take some time to pray for the pastor and the service. Beg God to showcase the beauty of Christ and strengthen people’s confidence in the Bible.
Ask the kids (especially the little one) to listen for one key point. If they can hear one thing and really get it, then you are winning.
Pray before you leave the car. After driving to church take a brief moment to pray as a family. Pray that you would hear, heed and love God’s Word.
Parents During the Sermon
It is very important to not only train your kids to sit “still and quiet” but also to be attentive to the preaching of the Bible. As parents we don’t simply want well-behaved quiet kids but rather Bible-loving, gospel-saturated, promise-claiming, world-changing kids. This starts with preaching.
- Provide the kids with paper, pencil and a Bible.
- Restate important things during the sermon.
- Point to verses in their Bible.
- Smile—don’t just give them the stink-eye. It’s not a root-canal!
- Be engaged yourself. You undo all of your work if you are nodding off or checking Facebook or the scores of the game.
Parents After the Sermon
- Look at their notes (or doodles).
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Help to make personal application.
- Pray for gospel growth.
Pastors Before the Sermon
- Provide the sermon text a few days in advance. I know this is extra work, but I have found it to be very much worth it. We post the outline and text a few days before Sunday and encourage folks to read and prepare (here is an example).
- Provide the sermon outline in advance. See above.
- Highlight some “words for kids.” In one sermon you might note: “Holiness, Endure, Discipline” in another it may be “Grace, Sin, Faith.” You get the picture.
- Pray for the children and young people in your church.
Pastors During the Sermon
- Remember that you are preaching to a wide variety of people, including young people. This helps in preparation and prayer.
- Address them. Recently I tried to make a point that all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). I talked about how they were tied to his finger so to speak. I used the example of Curious George having all of the balloons on his finger and all of the promises, like balloons are connected to Christ. As he goes so go the promises. Adults may laugh but kids seemed to get it.
- Try to make big points sticky. We can say things a lot of different ways. If you can put your point on something they already do (Legos, Elsa, sports, heroes, etc.) then you are helping them to understand.
There are many other things you could do, but this is just a list of items that we have found helpful in our family and church. Perhaps you have others; feel free to list them in the comments so that others may benefit from them.