You make a good observation when you say “Half the battle is done if the point you make to the kids is rooted in a biblical text.”
But at the risk of mixing my metaphors, any preacher who stops because half the battle is done will preach a sermon that is only half-baked.
Is it this text?
The point is not just to preach a biblical point — something rooted in some text between Genesis and Revelation.
The point is to make a clear, relevant point from this biblical text.
You need to take the congregation (little kids or the grown ups) deeper in their understanding and living of the text of the morning.
Knowing the message you preach connects with a bible text is a good thing. That helps you avoid the problem of preaching a frankly non-biblical false-gospel message, as I wrote about in another letter.
But to be their pastor, you need to tell them something true and helpful from the text you read in worship that morning.
Here’s what happens if you don’t try to do this: you just give them one of your four favorite messages every week.
Every one of us quietly constructs their own inner sense of the key parts of the Christian faith.
The building blocks of that construction project are usually biblical texts — words of Jesus or Paul, phrases from psalms, images from the prophets, whatever. Some quite consciously become our “life verses” and others, more subtly, shape our core assumptions.
Once we are really formed by those select passages, we tend to come back to them again and again. They are the center to which life’s gravity pulls our understanding.
So picture yourself sitting down to talk to the kids. You know it is your chance to teach them about the faith, but you didn’t really prep anything. What comes out of your mouth?
You got it: it’s either your life verse or one of the three or four texts that serve as the pillars of your own personal systematic theology.
That’s okay on occasion. But the point is not to transfer your three favorite texts to the kids.
The task is to give them the whole biblical faith, piece by piece — so you can then get out of the way. The Holy Spirit will help them figure out what their own life verse and key texts are.
Is it a sermon?
This goes to the key point I’m trying to make in all these many letters about children’s sermons: You need to really think of the children’s sermon as a sermon.
It is just as much a sermon as the longer, more formal talk you’ll give the grown ups later in the service. It is different only because it is for a different, distinct group of people.
I think many pastors neglect this. Some think it is only a cozy time to connect with the kids. I value that connection, absolutely. But the children’s sermon is more than that. It is your opportunity to communicate about the Christian faith with them.
You don’t give them every single thing they will ever need to know about the faith in one Children’s sermon. But then you don’t put everything about the faith in one sermon for the grown ups either.
What you do is give one true, relevant, and helpful bit of what they need to know from that day’s text in an age-appropriate format.
The How-To Part
The best way to make sure you are doing that is to make sure that the point you make is rooted in the biblical text you chose to read that morning.
Once you write out what you are going to say to the kids, set it aside for a few minutes. Then reread the Bible text for the morning. Read through your children’s sermon and ask, “Is it this text? Does what I’m saying help the kids understand this biblical passage?”
Start with the assumption that the kids are smart enough to understand, curious enough to want to know, and connected to God enough to be able to grow.
Then explain the text.