The challenge of writing a children’s sermon on John 10:11-18 is that there is so much going on in such a tiny space. That’s the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday in Easter for Year B of the Revised Common Lectionary.
You’ll see what I mean about the number of things packed in here if you click on over to my Monday Meditation on the text. (You can also check out my meditation on the same Sunday’s Epistle, 1 John 3:16-24 by clicking here.)
In a children’s sermon you just can’t include every possible emphasis. You have to pick one thing.
And in a children’s sermon, most of the time you do best if you stick with narrative. Kid’s love stories. Really everyone learns important things through stories. Jesus seemed convinced of that so maybe we should give it a try too.
The trick here is that Jesus isn’t really telling a story, like in a parable. And this isn’t really a story about Jesus, like when you see him doing a miracle. Here he’s in the middle of a teaching time, and his teaching is all bound up in the implications of a metaphor: Jesus as “the good shepherd.”
So what do we do? We take a bit of editorial liberty, and spin a yarn around Jesus’ metaphor. And as usual, I like to do that by creating some conversational context.
To be quite honest, I think that the folks who wrote the book Young Children and Worship did a far better job than I do on the Good Shepherd, though I didn’t want to copy their approach. Check it out through this affiliate link. If you study that book and you’ll be prepared to do some amazing children’s sermons.
If you like the children’s sermon, you are totally free to use it — but please do one or both of the following. First possibility: Just let me know by email or a blog comment below that you are using it. Second (or additionally): You can include a reference in your church bulletin like “This morning’s children’s sermon is based on one published on GaryNealHansen.com.”
A Children’s Sermon on John 10:11-18, The Good Shepherd
One day Jesus was talking with his friends.
Jesus, you’re always telling us stories about the kingdom of heaven. But we’ve been wondering: could you tell us a story about yourself?
To tell you the truth, Peter, when I tell you about the kingdom of heaven I’m telling you a lot about myself.
That’s not what I mean. Tell us, maybe who you really are, and where you came from, and what you’re doing here.
Okay. But first, do you know what a shepherd is?
Sure. A shepherd is someone who takes care of some sheep.
Well, I’m a shepherd. That’s who I am. Do you think all shepherds are good at their jobs?
No, I don’t think so. In my village there was someone who got a job as a shepherd but ran away when a wolf came after the sheep. Boy, did he get in trouble.
That really doesn’t sound like a good shepherd. That sounds like just a hired hand. I’m the kind of shepherd who really loves my sheep. I actually know all my sheep by name, I love them so much.
That’s cool. What are some of their names?
One of my sheep is named Peter. Another is Nathaniel. One is Mary. Another is called Martha…
Hey, those are our names!
Now you’re catching on. Well in the morning I take my sheep out to the lake so they can drink the cool clear water. Then I take them to the pasture so they can eat the rich green grass. And at night I bring them into my sheepfold. Have any of you ever seen a sheepfold?
Sure, I used to have to tend the sheep. Our sheepfold was a wall all around in a circle with a little gap where the sheep could come and go.
That’s right. At night I bring my sheep inside the sheepfold where they can be safe and warm. Then I lay down across that gap in the wall.
Why do you lay down there?
Well, a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When I lay down in the gap in the sheepfold, the sheep can’t wander out and get lost. And if a wolf or some other wild animal comes, it can’t harm the sheep because it can’t get past me.
That sounds dangerous!
It is kind of dangerous,
But I’m the good shepherd—not some hired hand. I love my sheep—so I lay my life down for them. I want to keep them safe and make sure they are okay.
But aren’t you afraid the wolf will kill you?
I lay my life down, and I can pick it right back up again. I’ll keep that wolf away from my sheep. It’s my life—and I intend to spend my life helping my sheep.
- I wonder how many ways Jesus laid his life down for his sheep?
- I wonder if one of his sheep has the same name as you?
- I wonder if you’ve ever felt like Jesus was guiding you like a shepherd?
- I wonder how you and I might stay close to our Good Shepherd and be safe?
Preaching this text? If you want a refreshing take on making your sermon both biblical and useful to the people who listen, check out my book Your First Sermon: Getting from Here to Sunday in Five Manageable Steps.