Summary: Preaching to an all-age congregation is something we all find hard to do. Here sre some tips on how to make it a positive experience for all.
Preaching at an All-Age service
Preaching at an all-age service is for many of us, the most difficult environment in which to speak. I prefer speaking to adults, either in an evangelistic setting, or in Bible teaching. And many of us, though not specialists, can turn our hand at a children’s talk from time to time.
I, for one, am glad when the children go to their classes. Not because they are relegated though! It is just that little bit easier when the span of your audience is not so wide.
Having said all that, the church is a family! At home, my dad went to work before I got up for school. My mum got us up, gave us breakfast, and took us to school. But at some point during the day, perhaps meal times, we were all together. We all had our own level – school, college, university, or work and our own interests, but there were times when together, we celebrated as one family.
Some of our best services have been all-age, and so have some of our worst! So what makes the difference?
Of course, as with all preaching, prayer and preparation are key. But it is not enough to simply say ‘prepare and pray!’ Here are some key elements to help you engage everyone with God’s Word in an all-age environment…
1. Be Joined-up
As far as possible, ensure that the first part of the service is all-age inclusive! This may sound obvious, but it really isn’t. If others in the church are planning the first part of the service, they need to be sure to include the children. Boring notices (even the adults don’t listen), long repetitive songs, and dull, expressionless scripture reading (not the scriptures, but how they are read), long monotonous prayers… If the children are bored by the time you get up to preach, then the adults will be distracted, and nobody will be listening.
2. Be Interesting
This means story-style, narrative preaching. You may be the greatest champion of expository, verse by verse preaching. You might even be interesting and worth listening to. However, Jesus regularly spoke to mixed-sex, all-age audiences. When his disciples wanted the children excluded, he reproached them “Let the little children come to me!” Mark 10 v 13-16
Much of Jesus teaching to the crowds was story, narrative, parable. A good story, well told, is like a picture – worth 1,000 words!
For me, a simple retelling of a Bible story, is a wonderful way to preach all-age. For example, last week I retold the prodigal. I didn’t update it, just retold it, explaining it as I went. Doing this you can explain…
• Why asking for the money was like saying “I wish you were dead…”
• Why being rich doesn’t equal being happy
• Why not all friends are good friends
• Why working with pigs was a dirty job
• Why God wants us back, whatever we’ve done
• Why being religious is as bad as being a rebel
I introduced both sons at the start, and explained that we’d come back to the older one later…