Make your children's sermons age-appropriate
- 2001 26 Jul
Points to consider when preparing a children's sermon:
- Concentrate on the needs of the children. This is not an entertainment break for the congregation. Don't turn children's responses to your questions into jokes for the congregation. Children often do not understand the difference between laughing with some and being laughed at.
- Children perceive, or interpret, on the basis of their experiences, which are, of course, limited in contrast to those of adults. The tone of your presentation adds credibility to the words you are saying.
- Children like repetition. Do not hesitate to repeat stories, biblical references, and materials in the sermon. Since sameness and routine are important to children, have if possible, the same person present the children's sermon each Sunday.
- A sermon of two or three minutes that contains one central point is preferred over a longer, multiple message presentation.
- Keep words simple and within the experiences of the children. If in doubt about word usage choose the more simple word or term. It takes practice and careful planning to share the language of faith on a level children can understand.
- Children's feelings are much like those of adults, but their thought processes are quite different. Young children do not understand metaphor, idiomatic speech, parable, and symbolism. This is the greatest challenge because of the wide discrepancy in ages of the participants.
- Meet children at their eye level. Do not stand or tower over them. Always talk to and with children, not the congregation.
- When appropriate, try to coordinate the children's sermon with the sermon of the morning, but do not force the coordination. Remember that the theme of the sermon should be to create an awareness and sensitivity to the customs, rituals, routines, vocabulary, and overall purpose of the congregation and to help the children feel included in the worship experience.
- Involve children as much as feasible in the sermon. When appropriate, give them something related to the topic (such as a flower, a rock, or a Band-Aid) to take with them, but don't make presents an expectation each week.
- Children like to hear "when I was a little boy/girl" stories.
- When you ask questions, be ready to field all kinds of responses without turning the answer into entertainment for the congregation.
- Don't feel that your children's sermons are too simplistic. They will be for you and your adult congregation, but they will not be for preschool and early elementary-age children.
- Involve as many of the five senses as possible. Children ages 3-7, especially, learn best when several senses are involved.
From: Creating and Leading Children's Sermons by O. Suthern Sims, Jr. Copyright (c) 1999. Used by permission of Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., Macon, Ga., 1-800-747-3016. http://www.helwys.com
O. Suthern Sims, Jr., is professor of Developmental and Educational Psychology in the School of Education and professor of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine, Mercer University, Macon, Ga.