Monday, September 08, 2008 12:00 AM
If a sermon is nourishment for the soul, then the children's sermon is like ice cream (except that you eat it first).
If you're careful to craft the children's sermon well, it's more like an ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a cherry on top. The children's sermon not only teaches the children in the congregation the message of the day's sermon, it also can help the adults prepare for and understand the message, offer another perspective on the day's theme, and set up the congregation for a deeper hearing of the sermon.
To accomplish these goals, the children's sermon ought to be written after the sermon is complete, but delivered first. Ask yourself: What is the main point of my sermon in one sentence? (If you can't do that, then the sermon itself needs some more work!) It can be tempting to turn children's sermons into morality lessons, but is that what we feed the adults in our congregation week after week? Children are entitled to learn the message of God's grace and limitless love, just like the rest of us. So, instead of placing the burden of being good on the children, ask yourself the question: What is God doing here? Here you want to discover how God is acting in the lives of the children. Once you've answered these two questions, you're ready to craft your children's sermon.
Next, you will want to ask yourself some important questions:
- How could I share with children the message I've crafted for the adults?
- What words can be used to tell the story in a way children can understand?
- Is there an analogy that will unpack the story for them?
- Is there a story I can tell? Is there a story within the sermon I can expand upon? (Be careful here not to give away surprises that are meant to be unfolded during the telling of your sermon.)
- Are there props or objects that will help tell the story? (These should enhance rather than detract from the message. A good visual aid will help them remember the message long after worship is over.)
The final touch in crafting a great children's sermon is to deliver it well. It is important to welcome the children and ask lots of questions. If you don't pass a microphone, remember to repeat their answers so the adults can hear. Craft your questions in such a way that the children know where you're going with your message. You don't want to embarrass them in front of the congregation. Affirm all the children's answers. Reinforce the answers with your own comments, but don't be too wordy. Too much explanation takes away the wonder of discovery, and their attention spans can be short.
The children's sermon can give hints as to what's coming in your sermon. It's a great way to encourage children to learn to listen to a sermon. If your sermon has a repetitive phrase, ask them to tug on their parents' sleeve every time they hear it. If you're going to tell a memorable story, tell them to listen for the story. Always thank the children for coming and participating, and give hugs when appropriate.
Be creative. You might include older youth in the preparation and delivery of a children's sermon. Or, you might consider what small objects you might give the children to reinforce the message: candy, flower seeds, small rocks, anything affordable that will remind the children of the day's message. Use popular children's books, music, scenes from a child's movie, puppets, or even a magic trick. Enjoy sharing God's love with the children!