Okay, I promised some input on the actual contents of your children’s sermons.
I hope you don’t mind the extended rant about problems to avoid, but your actions are as much a witness to Christ (or, God forbid, a witness against him) as your words. That counts when preaching to grown-ups as well as the children’s sermon — and in your daily life, of course.
Picking Your Topic for the Children’s Sermon
There is a good bit to say, and so today I’ll just start with your explicit question:
How do I pick a topic for the children’s sermon?
The Lord often answered questions with more questions, so I’ll take the liberty of doing the same.
I ask you: How do you choose the topic of your grown-up sermon?
And once you answer that I’ll say, as Jesus is known to have said,
Go ye and do likewise.
Talk to the kids about the same biblical passage you are talking to the grown-ups about.
I’m always baffled when I visit a church and the preacher gives one message to the grown-ups and takes up a totally different topic for the kids.
At the very least, that’s inefficient. Why prepare to speak on two topics when you could focus your energy on just one?
But then, let’s be honest: a whole lot of pastors don’t actually prepare for their children’s sermons.
In addition though, it shows something about a pastor’s sense of the congregation: We spent the whole week digging into a passage to tell the grown-ups its message — so why do we think that the kids don’t need to hear it too?
- Is it about our estimation of the children’s value as members of the congregation?
- Is it maybe our estimation of the children’s ability to understand what the Bible is actually about?
Well it reveals something. I don’t think it is probably something good.
Picking Your Topic for the Grown-Up Sermon
So how do you decide what your grown-up sermon is going to be about? That’s something to think about now, while you are in seminary. There are lots of choices:
- Many preach texts assigned by a lectionary, letting their denominations decide for them.
- Many take up topics (kingdom parables, “I Am” sayings, the Lord’s Prayer, whatever) and create a sermon series, finding relevant texts and using the sermon as an opportunity for education.
- Many preach almost at random, believing or hoping that the Spirit guides them to the text their congregation needs to hear about.
- A lonely few take the Reformers as their role models and preach through a book of Scripture text by text, start to finish.
- And some just preach the same messages over and over, taking a file of sermons from church to church in a sort of liturgical recycling program.
Whatever approach you end up taking, why not prepare a kid-level message from the text you’ll be preaching to the grown-ups?
Really: It’s a Children’s Sermon
I’m saying this knowing that it telegraphs assumptions that are different from those held by many. That is, I believe the “children’s sermon” really is a sermon.
If you look at how this part of the service appears in bulletins, you may find that I hold a minority opinion.
- Some call it “the children’s story” whether they are telling a story or not.
- Some call it “the children’s blessing” which certainly implies more “Mr Rogers Moment” than biblical exposition.
- Some call it “the time for young disciples,” which could be anything, really, though it does imply that they ought to follow Jesus.
For my money it should be a children’s sermon. It is your job to teach the biblical faith to the kids, just like you do for the grown-ups. That doesn’t mean you should bore them — but you shouldn’t bore the grown-ups either.
You should communicate good news of Jesus Christ, and you should teach the joyful, helpful, challenging message of the Bible as a whole. And you should do it in ways appropriate to children. One good sign that you are doing that: they listen eagerly.
So tell me: How do you choose the topic of your grown-up sermon? And why would you choose a different topic for the kids?
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