Summary: Children's sermons
The purpose of this sermon is to encourage the use of quality children's sermons.
Jesus' ministry is famous for his allowing little children to come to him (Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:17), mentioning specifically the advantage children have over adults in receiving the kingdom of God. A children's sermon is an opportunity to include them as Jesus did. It is an occasional 5 minute or less time slot near the beginning of a church service. Some preachers introduce their own sermons with a short time at the beginning devoted specially to children. Others address children with special attention during an adult sermon.
Adults as well as children benefit from a well thought out and presented children's sermon. All too often a children's sermon is a catastrophe, because it lacks diligent preparation and the preacher lacks an understanding of its special audience. Many preachers have make an effort to give children's, failed miserably after a few tries and given up on the idea. But with a little education, most preachers can succeed marvelously at giving children's sermons. How can you prepare and present successful children's sermons?
This lessons discusses ideas to capture children's attention, qualities of a good children's sermon, positive discipline, evangelizing children, making your church child friendly and the concept of catechism.
Interest, Instruct & Impress
In his marvelous revision of John A. Broadus' classic 1870's book On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (p. 253, Harper, 1979) Vernon L. Stanfield defines 3 primary things to do in a children's sermon:
interest — in order to interest children a sermon must be pretty or funny
instruct — simple Christians essentials and doing good
impress — appeal to their affections not their fears
Visualization & Imagination
There is no excuse for an ad lib children's sermon. It needs just as much prayer and forethought as an adult sermon. In his book Gospel-Telling: The Art and Theology of Children’s Sermons (2002, CSS Publishing Company) Richard J. Coleman suggests a few excellent categories of children’s sermons, which I summarize as two points:
visualization — demonstrations, drama and pantomime
imagination — tell stories or parables
When outlining a children's sermon, it may be a good idea to add an extra point in your outline, such as props, costumes, drama, visuals, etc.
Qualities of a Good Children's Sermon
A good children's sermon has some important qualities. Include the adults in the children's message. Remember they are listening too. Show respect and dignity to children. Don't use them as objects of childish vanity or ridicule. Keep the topic within the theme of the day, so that it flows with the worship music and main sermon. Get to know what interests children so you can talk about those things. Speak at their level, using simple child-like logic, not deep metaphorical language. Try telling a story from the Bible in your own words. Consult with teachers who have studied early childhood education.
In a presentation for a preaching conference in September 2003, Connie Campbell suggested some ideas:
Sit down among the children so they will listen better.
Build drama with your voice and expressions.
Ask questions so children can answer, and listen to the answers.
Involve the children in motions or by repeating phrases.
Use resources like children's books, PowerPoint pictures and music.
Discipline during a children's sermon can be difficult. Distractions can be frustrating and challenging. Elizabeth O. Cooper presents some helpful comments (Quest, Fall 2005, Volume 8 Issue 2):
Incompatible alternatives principle — ask for help with something so that they don't have time to misbehave
Make a big deal principle — reinforcing positive reactions
Privacy principle — never embarrass a child in public
Whisper principle — surprise a child by lowering your voice to a whisper
Get on a child's eye level principle — get down and look them in the eyes
Roger Fellows a pastor in England reminds us there are a couple of advantages to a children's sermon: they are more teachable and are less hardened by sin. However, there are also disadvantages: children are easily led into a shallow profession of faith and avoid teaching that is over their heads.
Make Church Child Friendly
Trying to make the whole church more child friendly is a challenge. Nothing discourages children quicker than intolerant people. On the other hand, nobody can tolerate severe disruption. This is a very sensitive issue in any church. Try to give children the opportunity to participate more in church. The altar boy has been a very successful custom. Similar jobs can be invented in other traditions to give children encouragement.
Preachers can openly make children feel welcome and speak directly to them during sermons. Support parents. Encourage them to bring coloring books and pencils, soft toys and other things that may make church more special to children. Along with adult examples or illustrations, also include examples of children in sermons.