A mom to came up to me at the end of a recent Church Requel service: "I wasn't going to come tonight. I worked all day and I was tired. I came home and I just wanted to crash. But Anna would have none of it. 'Mom, I want to go to church!'"
Church Requel is a small church. Typically we have less than 60 people attend our Sunday evening services. Yet our fastest growing demographic are children under the age of 10. Why? Because we make our services child friendly.
This year we have added children's sermons to our services. We invite the elementary-aged children to come up front with me. Usually I will sit on the platform and have them sit around me. These talks typically last 7 to 10 minutes. What is it about these short talks that make a child ASK to come to church? Here are 4 guidelines that can help you create great children's sermons.
Guideline #1: Use Object Lessons. I usually have a small table up front that contains an object lesson for the kids. It is always covered up, creating a curiosity factor. The kids can't wait to see what is under the tablecloth. Every sermon includes something different. When talking about living a fruitful life, I showed them two dishes - one with really rotten bananas and one with fresh bananas. 'What kind of life do you want to offer God?' I asked. When talking about God's help in life we set up bowling pins of plastic liter bottles. When we try to do things on our own without God's help, we bowled with a ping pong ball. With God's help we bowled - much more successfully - with a basketball. The key is to be creative and imaginative. Kids love seeing how things work and they have a much greater imagination than adults. Have fun here. Be a kid yourself!
Guideline #2: Focus your entire attention on the children. Usually - at first - the kids are nervous about being in front of everyone else. Look them in the eyes. Tell them that this is their special time with the pastor. Everyone else can listen in, but this is THEIR time. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Respond. Don't be locked in to a script. Have a general plan, but be willing to adjust on the fly. Kids really do say the darndest things. They will ask the questions everyone wants to know! Enjoy this conversation with the kids.
Guideline #3: Never forget your adult audience. While your attention is entirely focused on the children, know that the adults in the audience will be hanging on your every word. Pastor, you work hard on every adult sermon and dream of the adults tuning in to your every word. After a few years you begin to realize this will probably never be as true as you wish it to be. Until it comes to delivering kids' sermons! Suddenly adults are craning their necks, leaning forward, entirely focused! Why? Because of the kids. Because of the 'Who knows what will happen?' uncertainty. Because of the fun. Bottom line: the children's sermon may be your best chance to connect with your adult audience.
Guideline #4: Be simple but not surface. Because your attention will be focused on the children, your teaching must also be at a child's level. Simple should be your motto. One main message. Or one main Bible verse. Or one main challenge. However this doesn't mean the children's sermon has to be surface only. In fact, if you dialog with the kids you'll discover they often are wondering about some of life's deepest questions. Don't be afraid to admit that you haven't got it all figured out yourself. Keep your children's sermon simple, but don't be afraid to go deep!
If you are the pastor of a small church like I am, you probably wish you had some of the advantages of a larger church. But the children's sermon is one ace you possess that your large-church pastor friends can only dream about. While you are small, you have the size and flexibility to invite all the kids up front. This gives you the chance to know all the kids - and their parents - so much better than you ever would otherwise.
I love the time I spend with our CR kids during the children's sermons. How about you? What are you doing to connect with the kids - and their parents - in your congregation? Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear your ideas!